THE FIANNA FÁIL Ard Fheis is due to kick off at the INEC in Killarney at 7 pm tonight with an opening speech from party leader Micheál Martin.
This will be followed by discussions on mental health and the party’s finances.
Tomorrow will see a full day of events including debates on social equality, public expenditure, education and universal healthcare. The showpiece event will be a televised address from Martin at 8.30 pm.
Dozens of motions to be debated and voted on by the Ard Fheis delegates over the next two days.
We’ve combed through the Ard Fheis Clár (agenda) so you don’t have to and picked out a few motions we found interesting. The motions are arranged by department.
Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation
1. Motion 2 of this section calls for the abolition of JobBridge (or ‘Jobsbridge’ as it’s incorrectly called in the Clár) to end the “exploitation of young Irish people by the programme”.
2. Motion 6 proposes the establishment of a State-owned enterprise bank to support SMEs. Small and medium businesses come up a number of times throughout the document, including in the ‘finance’ section where it is suggested that the government should introduce a tax break for SMEs that hire an unemployed person under the age of 26.
Justice and Equality
3. Motion 3 focuses on cyber bullying and puts forward the idea that the government should have the power to “shut down a social media site that leads to the fatality of one of its citizens”.
4. Motion 8 is particularly topical given the recent publication of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate report into penalty points and the GSOC bugging controversy. It calls for the creation of an independent, non-departmental police commission “to meet the challenges of policing in Ireland in the 21st century” and “ensure accountability of policing”.
5. Motion 14 is sure to inspire a lively debate as it looks at “the damage being done to young people and society at large by the trend in new irresponsible drinking”. Ard Fheis delegates will be asked if the minimum age at which a person can buy alcohol in off licences should be raised to 21. The proposal states that any subsequent decrease in business would be offset by restating off sales trading hours to 11.30 pm.
TD Éamon Ó’Cuív and a delegate at Fianna Fáil’s 2013 Ard Fheis. (Pic: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland.)
6. Property tax features a number of times in this section. Motion 3 states that the party’s official line on the tax should remain as one of disagreement, but, if it continues to be upheld, 10 per cent of the redistributed funds should go back to local councils in 2015. Related motions call for property tax on all private residences valued at €250,000 or less to be fixed at €100 annually and for pensioners with a combined household income of less than €55,000 to be exempt from the charge.
Public Expenditure and Public Sector Reform
7. Another topical issue is addressed in Motion 5, namely “an immediate end to all top up salary payments in taxpayer-funded agencies”. This proposal was likely influenced by the recent revelations about the Central Remedial Clinic and Rehab.
8. Motion 9 states that women should account for at least 45 per cent of all appointments to State boards by 2016. Gender quotas aren’t the only quotas up for debate this weekend, with the measure also being looked at as a way to increase the participation of people with disabilities in politics. Earlier this week, TD Dara Calleary admitted the party was “very disappointed” by the lack of female candidates running for the party in May’s elections.
Former TD Mary O’Rourke and Senator Averil Power at last year’s Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis. (Pic: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland.)
9. Motion 9 proposes the decriminalisation of marijuana for medical purposes. A motion to legalise the drug for personal consumption, sale and production was defeated at Fine Gael’s Ard Fheis a few weeks ago.
Transport, Tourism and Sport
10. In an interesting move, Motion 8 suggests that the merger of the Football Association of Ireland (in the Republic) and the Irish Football Association (in Northern Ireland) might help “progress legacy issues since the Troubles”.
Foreign Affairs and Northern Ireland
11. In a bid to improve “diplomatic relations between Ireland and the Holy See”, Motion 3 calls for the government to invite Pope Francis to visit the country.
Communications, Energy and Natural Resources
12. Motion 5 will allow Ard Fheis delegates to vote on whether or not nuclear power is the “natural option to compliment [sic] our renewable energy programme in order to reach our carbon emission targets”.
- Follow @oconnellhugh for updates from the INEC this weekend.