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Cabinet

Cabinet to sign off on one-year lease extension for Citywest accommodation centre

Cabinet is expected to green light the development levy waiver scheme in bid to reduce construction costs.

A ONE-YEAR EXTENSION to the lease at Citywest is set to be approved by Cabinet today. 

The CityWest Transit Hub has been used for emergency accommodation of asylum seekers over the last year. 

Integration Minister Roderic O’Gorman will today bring a memo to Cabinet seeking approval for the lease to be extended to May 2025. 

A total of 81,000 Ukrainians and 8,000 international protection applicants have been accommodated at Citywest since 2022.

Approximately 560 asylum seekers and and 1,600 Ukrainians under the temporary protection directive are currently accommodated at the complex. 

The memo comes as the government continues to face accommodation challenges and pressures in local areas. 

Gambling

Separate to O’Gorman’s memo, the long-awaited gambling laws are moving forward with Cabinet expected to approve amendments to the legislation today. 

Minister of State at the Department of Justice, James Browne has stated that the legislation will go to report and final stages next week, before progressing on to the Seanad. 

He told RTÉ’s Saturday with Colm Ó Mongáin programme that there is support right across the floor for the new laws, stating that “the situation is quite devastating  in terms of gambling addiction”. 

Some of Ireland’s laws date back to the 1930s, he explained, pointing to this as one of the reasons it has taken so long for the legislation to progress.

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Browne said the current legislation is “hopelessly not fit for purpose”, adding that “every ten-year-old is going around with a casino in their back pocket, that is how serious it is”. 

The government has cited research from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), which was published in October 2023 and suggests that problem gambling rates are ten times higher than previous estimates.

The Gambling Regulation Bill aims to regulate this by setting out the framework for the establishment of a new independent, statutory regulatory body, the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland (GRAI).

The regulator would oversee in-person and online gambling, and the legislation will impose tighter restrictions on gambling advertising, websites and apps.

The Department of Justice says that the bill is a public health measure “aimed at protecting our citizens from gambling harm, including younger people and those more vulnerable in our communities”. 

Extending free contraception

Separately, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly will be highlighting phase two of the government’s Women’s Health Action Plan 2024-2025, which will include initiatives such as the expansion of the free contraception scheme from 31 years to 35 years.

It will also focus on women at midlife and older, giving specific atten­tion to bone health and cardiovascular health. It will also set out the plan for the first public Assisted Human Reproduction Treatment Centre to be developed.

Donnelly is bringing a progress report on the strategic plan for critical care which highlights we now have 330 ICU beds operational across the country. This is an increase of 72 additional beds over the 2020 baseline of 258 beds.

The minister of health will also seek government approval today for the drafting of amendments to the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2024, that will provide authorisation for pharmacists to prescribe in certain circumstances.

Currently in Ireland, those who can prescribe are doctors, dentists and some nurses, if they have completed additional training. The minister has made it clear that he now wants to extend prescriptive authority to include pharmacists.

The intention is to have an agreed basis for pharmacist prescribing in place before the end of 2024. 

Housing

Separately, Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien was due to get Cabinet sign off on the expansion of the development levy waiver, which he flagged at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis over the weekend. However, coalition leaders are understood to have agreed to extend the levy at their meeting last night.

The estimated cost of extending it to end of 2024 is about €240 million, with the cost also including the Irish Water connection charge rebate. The financing of the extension, which is being done in a bid to reduce construction costs, is due to be nailed down in the coming days, before going to Cabinet next week. 

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Minister for Education Norma Foley will also seek Cabinet approval for the text of the Supports for Survivors of Residential Institutional Abuse Bill.

This bill provides for a package of ongoing supports to survivors of abuse in residential institutions and the dissolution of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Board known as Caranua.

The enhanced package of health supports and services to survivors of institutional abuse, includes an enhanced medical card.

Survivors living abroad will be able to avail of a payment of €3,000 in lieu of the enhanced medical card to support their health needs.

The bill also provides for grants for survivors to assist them in engaging in further or higher education. These payments will be additional to any SUSI grants that survivors may be entitled to and the scheme will also ensure that survivors are not required to pay the Student Contribution Charge where this would otherwise apply.

In addition, Finance Minister Michael McGrath will be updating Cabinet on the warehousing of tax debt for businesses. In February, it was announced the interest rate would be be reduced to 0% in a bid to help small and medium businesses. 

The total debt warehoused which is outstanding since January 2022 is €1.72 billion. The minister has said he knows businesses are doing their best to pay the amounts due but some businesses need additional space and time to address their liabilities.

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