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Monday 2 October 2023 Dublin: 13°C
Leah Farrell The Ard Fheis is very much being seen as a rallying call to Fine Gael members ahead of Varadkar taking over the reins as Taoiseach next month.
# Fine Gael Ard Fheis
FG members to vote on inheritance tax, weapons for Ukraine and setting up in Northern Ireland
Leo Varadkar’s address to the party will be televised live on RTE One tomorrow evening.

FINE GAEL IS to hold its first in-person Ard Fheis in more than two years tomorrow. 

The pandemic forced the past couple of conferences online but party members will gather tomorrow at the Technological University of the Shannon (TUS) in Athlone tomorrow. 

Leo Varadkar’s leader’s address will be televised live on RTE One from 6.30pm tomorrow with the Ard Fheis being seen as a rallying call to Fine Gael members ahead of Varadkar taking over the reins as Taoiseach from Michéal Martin on 17 December.

There will be discussions on housing, the cost-of-living, building safer communities, health and Northern Ireland over the course of the day.

A closed session will also take place between some ministers and party councillors.

Branches in Northern Ireland

Members will also vote on a number of motions put before the party. These include motions on housing provision, scrapping the concrete levy, and also changes to party rules to allow for Fine Gael branches to be established in Northern Ireland.

One motion on housing calls on the government to implement policies to make it easier to purchase owner-occupied homes.

The Dublin Rathdown constituency Executive of Fine Gael is calling on the Government to remove what it calls “disincentives for developers” to sell houses and apartments to first- time buyers, such as removing VAT from the sale price of new houses and apartments.

The National Agriculture Forum of the party will call for a vote on one-off housing in rural areas, which it said should allow people to build where they are from and where their families live.

Meanwhile the Sligo-Leitrim constituency group is calling on the Government to implement a policy of blended learning at colleges and universities so that no more than half of students at any one time would have to attend in-person lectures.

They claim this will help alleviate the chronic shortage of student accommodation, allow for the sharing of accommodation across semesters by students and groups of students, while still enabling every student to avail of the full college experience.

Motion to scrap the concrete levy

Galway-East constituency Executive will call on the party to approve a motion to scrap the concrete levy, stating that the costs borne by developers will be passed onto those already struggling to purchase a home.

The members will also deal with party rule changes that make it easier to expel people from the party.

The Ard Fheis is being asked to approve a new paragraph which will state that, in the event that a member of the party breaches certain rules, the Executive Council shall be entitled to expel that member from the party, without invoking the disciplinary provisions.

Climate and energy will also be dealt with, with the Dublin-Fingal Executive calling on the government to review the opposition to an LNG terminal.

Proposal to remove the triple-lock

The Dublin Bay South Young Fine Gael branch is seeking that the Government remove the triple-lock mechanism and replace it with a double-lock mechanism so the deployment of more than 12 Irish troops overseas would only require Government and Dáil approval. At present, the mission must also be mandated by the United Nations.

Meanwhile, the Fine Gael Brussels branch is calling for Ireland to send weapons to Ukraine. 

The motion says the State should “extend its solidarity with Ukraine and the Ukrainian people and should therefore supply the Ukrainian army with anti-armour weaponry that would help them in their war against Russian invasion of its territory”. 

Members from Cork and Kerry will be asking for members’ approval for the introduction of a new 30% tax rate in Budget 2024, while those in the Dublin Rathdown constituency will be calling for the Government to implement a commitment in the Fine Gael manifesto to increase the standard rate tax band to €50,000.

Inheritance tax threshold 

When Fine Gael is leading Government, the Dublin-Rathdown branch also wants the party to raise the tax-free threshold of inheritance tax in line with inflation.

The Dublin Fingal constituency is also calling on Government to recognise the differences between restaurant and food-service businesses and hotels/accommodation providers. It is calling for the 9% hospitality VAT rate to be maintained for restaurants and coffee shops, but wants a review as to the appropriate VAT rate for other categories within the hospitality sector.

In the “Building Stronger, Safer Communities” section of the conference, members in the Ballinteer branch is raising the issue of anti-social behaviour on public transport, calling on the Government to work with the gardai on establishing a specific unit for public transport.

Kevin Norton Branch, Dublin Rathdown is calling for support for a proposal to tackle gambling, calling for betting losses to be null and void, and any winnings paid out to be irrecoverable if a gambler has registered on a self-exclusion register in Ireland.

The party will also discuss Northern Ireland, with the Ard Fheis being asked to vote on a proposal to appoint a Minister for State for Northern Ireland Affairs.

There will also be calls for the Government to produce a viable plan to achieve a United Ireland. There are also calls for a Citizens Assembly on Ireland’s constitutional future during the lifetime of the Government, planning for both a border poll and model for reunification thereafter.

Tadgh McNally will be following all the latest events at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis in Athlone. Get all the updates by following @TadghMcN and @thejournal_ie 

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