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Kenny offers Alliance TDs compromise in bid to shore up support for Coalition

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Taoiseach Enda Kenny Photo: Tom Burke

Taoiseach Enda Kenny Photo: Tom Burke

Taoiseach Enda Kenny Photo: Tom Burke

Work is to begin immediately on setting up an Oireachtas Committee to review the Citizens' Assembly's report on the Eighth Amendment.

The move comes as part of a compromise that could prevent the Independent Alliance voting against the Government on an AAA-PBP private members bill seeking an abortion referendum.

Members of the Alliance were last night locked in talks with Fine Gael and the Irish Independent understands the two sides are nearing agreement on a "three-pronged approach" to prevent a Cabinet split.

Transport Minister Shane Ross and junior ministers Finian McGrath and John Halligan successfully demanded a free vote when another bill relating to abortion came before the Dáil in July.

However, the Taoiseach is determined to avoid a repeat of the row on that occasion and preserve the work of the assembly.

The assembly is to give a recommendation on the Eighth Amendment early next year.

A cross-party committee will then study its report before making its own recommendations and the Dáil and Seanad vote in late 2017 or early 2018.

The Government will ask the Oireachtas Business Committee to begin preparatory work for the Eighth Amendment committee to avoid delay. "That will be a statement of intent that the assembly's work won't sit on a shelf," said a source.

As part of the deal, the Government will put forward a "reasoned amendment" to the Ruth Coppinger bill.

This would stop the bill from being voted on, with the Dáil instead voting on a statement that will recognise the work of the Citizens' Assembly.

It may also note that every member of the Government will get a free vote when the assembly's report is delivered.

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