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Dublin: 9°C Wednesday 27 January 2021

Proposals to bring Metrolink to UCD and an extension of breastfeeding breaks for women: Leo's manifesto promises

Fine Gael will launch its general election manifesto today – as will Fianna Fáil.

Image: Eamonn Farrell

EXTENDING METROLINK TO University College Dublin (UCD) is just one of the items covered in Fine Gael’s election manifesto due to be published today.

While public transport expansion features heavily, Fine Gael’s manifesto will today also have a strong family focus, also committing to extending paid breastfeeding breaks.

Fine Gael is not the only party publishing its election promises today – while Leo Varadkar will around the Grafton Street area of the capital, Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin will be just up the road in Dublin 8 also launching his party’s manifesto.

Ahead of the launch of his party’s manifesto, The Taoiseach canvassed on Dublin’s Grafton Street, where he was asked about hospital waiting lists, climate change, the struggling arts industry and homelessness:

Investment in transport

It’s understood that Fine Gael will today promise to invest heavily in transport, with the manifesto stating that if the party wins the election, the government will explore the feasibility of extending MetroLink to additional locations including UCD and south-west Dublin.

The ‘Preferred Route’ for Dublin’s underground rail system – which will link Swords to the city centre via Dublin Airport – was unveiled last year. The overall cost of the project is an estimated €3 billion. 

Construction on the project is expected to begin in 2021, and it is hoped that the first Metrolink services will begin in 2027.

Plans for a Metro in Dublin were initially floated twenty years ago; plans were halted in 2011 due to the economic downturn.

There are also plans to extend the Luas network to Hazelhatch and Booterstown, while it is understood other transport options to reduce dependency on the private car will also be considered – with the possibility of underground metro routes within the M50 being looked at. 

Fine Gael’s manifesto is understood to have a big focus on an increase in cycling and active travel. Full commitment to the roll out of the BusConnects programme is set out, while there are also plans to expand the DART, including new services operating between Dublin city centre and Drogheda.

There are expected to be promises to consider extending the Luas to Finglas, Poolbeg, Bray and Lucan, as well as a rail link into Navan.

The implementation of the Cork Metropolitan Area Draft Transport Strategy 2040 is also on the list of transport projects mentioned in the FG manifesto.

Families and mothers also feature in today’s document – with Fine Gael committing to extending paid breastfeeding breaks up to a two year period from the current six months. As things stand, women are allowed take time off work each day in order to breastfeed or express breast milk if they have given birth in the previous 26 weeks only. 

This proposal is being brought in to support Fine Gael’s target of a 2% annual increase in the number of new mothers breastfeeding. The manifesto will say that Fine Gael will prioritise areas where social disadvantage means breastfeeding rates are lower.

On the issue of the carbon tax increase, a measure introduced in the last Budget, Fine Gael will set out today where the ring-fenced money – which the government has already said will be used for climate action measures – will go.

All of the new revenue raised from increasing carbon tax will be re-invested in protecting poorer groups. This will mean an increase in the fuel allowance and more retrofitting of low-income and social homes. 

Fine Gael will invest 10% of carbon tax revenue into cycling and other forms of active travel, which will amount to €600 million over the period to 2030, according to the manifesto.

The party says that this is in addition to significant investment that will be made in cycle lanes through Bus Connects and the capital budget of the Department of Transport, where over €100 million is being invested annually.

Today’s manifesto is understood to also commit to the expansion of Ireland’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure in order to keep ahead of demand. There will also be a mention of support for innovative green agricultural projects, as well as a €10 million Green SMEs Fund.

Meanwhile, in an interview for TheJournal.ie’s The Candidate podcast Micheál Martin committed to an extra €5 for the pension, each year for five years, if Fianna Fáil get into government. 

Martin also said he will reduce the amount peoples’ rents can rise in rent pressure zones, reducing the 4% increase cap. 

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