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Bruton says heads of bill agreed and will be published tonight

JOBS Minister Richard Bruton says he is confident the heads of the abortion bill will be agreed by the Cabinet and published later tonight.

The weekly Cabinet meeting was adjourned earlier and will resume at 5.30pm, and Mr Bruton and Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney say agreement can be reached.

The pair were speaking at a Glanbia jobs launch in Dublin this afternoon.

"It was a very long agenda," Mr Bruton said of this morning's meeting.

"We wanted to give this time. We've had a good introductory discussion but we want to complete it. I think it will be completed this evening.

We have a task to do and we're determined to do that and later in the day we'll see the first phase of that with the publication of the heads."

Mr Coveney said he expects a lot of discussion on it at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting tomorrow night.

Expectations are growing of a string of Fine Gael TDs voting agains the Government on the issue.

"There is no more sensitive issue," Mr Coveney said. "There needs to be an opportunity for everyone to have their say and to get a full understanding of what's being proposed here.

"I hope, as a Fine Gael member, we can keep our party together and produce a bill that people can support."

Mr Bruton said the proposals will be "well balanced", adding: "I think we will bring people with us and obviously that's the objective of the Taoiseach and of the party. At this point we're not envisaging people defecting. We're trying to persuade people."

He described this morning's Cabinet meeting as good, and said it was "respectful and professional".

The Cabinet's delay in agreeing the abortion legislation is being attributed to ministers only getting a copy of the legislation this morning.

Ministers have a range of points they want to clarify in the legislation before signing off on it.

Several Cabinet sources told the Irish Independent the meeting was positive with a calm debate and the legislation will be cleared later today.

"Only got the heads this morning so people wanted time to read them," he said.

Online Editors