Opposition parties have agreed to support the Government's proposals for emergency legislation to plug the legal loop-hole on statutory rape.

It is understood that the Bill will restore the crime of statutory rape and would have a uniform age of consent for young men and women.

After an afternoon of consultations, Fine Gael said it welcomed the main provisions of the bill. 

Brendan Howlin of Labour said his party would be supporting the bill but claimed some anomalies still existed that would have to be teased out.

Some sources said that the bill was even tougher than the 1935 Act it replaced and that some of its provisions risked criminalising 16-year-olds engaged in consensual sex.

The full details will emerge when it is finally circulated later tonight

The Criminal Law Sexual Offences Bill 2006 is to be passed through all stages at tomorrow's special sitting of the Dáil and Seanad.

It is then likely to go to the President, Mary McAleese, for her immediate signature.

Seven Independent Deputies, led by Tony Gregory and Finian McGrath, sought to keep up the pressure on Michael McDowell this morning and called for his resignation as Minister for Justice.

Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin earlier called for Mr McDowell to appear in the Dáil to answer questions about the affair.

Meanwhile the Government has bowed to opposition pressure by acceding to calls to cancel next week's break and have both the Dáil and Seanad sit on Wednesday and Thursday.

Earlier, the Minister for Finance, Brian Cowen, said he disagreed with the Supreme Court decision that led to the current controversy and said the release of a child rapist this week flowed from that ruling and not from Government inaction.