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Carbon, cycling and housing: The main points in the draft programme for government

Here are the main things to know from the document published today.

Leo Varadkar, Micheál Martin and Eamon Ryan.
Leo Varadkar, Micheál Martin and Eamon Ryan.
Image: Photojoiner/Rollingnews.ie

EARLIER TODAY, THE leaders of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party agreed a draft programme for government. 

The parties have been tackling their combined programme for entering into government – a ‘to-do list’ of policies that they would bring in if in power together. 

An agreement was reached after heightened negotiations in the past week and meetings between the three party leaders in recent days.  

Under the deal, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin will serve as Taoiseach until December 2022 when the role will rotate back to Leo Varadkar. 

Here are the main plans for a new government. 

Economy

  • Publish a series of “immediate actions” to support the recovery of the economy following Covid-19.
  • This will set out a pathway for the future of the Temporary Wage Subsidy and the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. 
  • On the day the 2021 Budget is released, the government will announce a “national economic plan” to chart a “longer-term, jobs-led recovery”.   

Transport

  • Local authorities will assess their road network and see where space could be reallocated for cyclists and pedestrians.  
  • Plans for delivery of Metrolink, Luas and other light rail expansion, DART expansion and interconnector and Bus Connects in Dublin, Cork, Galway, and Limerick will be prioritised.
  • 10% of the transport capital budget allocated for cycling projects and 10% of the total capital budget for pedestrian infrastructure.
  • Widen the eligibility of the Bike to Work scheme, providing an increased allowance for e-bikes and cargo bikes.
  • A 2:1 ratio of expenditure between new public transport infrastructure and new roads.

Tax

  • There will be no increases in income tax or USC rates.
  • The 3% USC surcharge applied to self-employed income “is unfair and proposals will be considered to ameliorate this over time as resources allow”.
  • In Budget 2021, there will be no change to income tax credits or bands. From Budget 2022 onwards, in the event that incomes are again rising as the
    economy recovers, credits and bands will be indexed linked to earnings.
  • Any rise in tax will focus on things with “negative” connotations like carbon, sugar and plastics.
  • Retain 12.5% corporation tax.

Business

  • Enact legislation for the roll out of the €2 billion credit guarantee scheme for businesses, which will support below market rate lending from banks to businesses.
  • Convene an SME and State Bodies Group to be chaired jointly by the ministers for finance and businesses.
  • Create a code of conduct between landlords and commercial tenants.
  • Commence a “high-level” review of the economy by the Department of the Taoiseach to identify which sectors have the greatest opportunity for growth.
  • Review the Companies Acts and make any necessary changes to simplify and improve receivership, examinership and liquidation laws in response to the Covid-19 crisis. 

Insurance

  • Continue to prioritise reform of the insurance sector. 
  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Recovery and Investment will prioritise the issue of insurance reform.
  • Look to increase cooperation between gardaí and the insurance industry in dealing with fraudulent cases.
  • Publish data on insurance fraud. 
  • Create an office within government to encourage greater competition in the Irish insurance market. 

Climate

  • Reach an average of 7% reduction in carbon emissions each year up to 2030. 
  • Reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. 
  • Increase the Carbon Tax gradually to €100 per tonne by 2030. 
  • Introduce a Climate Action (Amendment) Bill within first 100 days of new Dáil to set a target to de-carbonise the economy by 2050 at the latest.
  • Withdraw the Shannon LNG terminal from the EU Projects of Interest in 2021.  
  • A ban on the importation of fracked gas.
  • Retrofit at least 500,000 homes to a B2 energy rating by 2030.
  • Progress setting up a Citizens’ Assembly on biodiversity.  
  • Set up a scheme to provide drinking fountains nationwide to reduce plastic bottle litter.

Healthcare

There are 11 pages relating to health in the agreed text, among the noteworthy points are commitments to:

  • Accelerate the implementation of Sláintecare and identify how Covid-19 has affected this. 
  • Increase homecare hours and introduce a Statutory Homecare Scheme.
  • Extend free GP care to more children.
  • Abolish in-patient hospital charges for children.
  • Introduce baby boxes for new parents. 
  • Extend discretionary medical cards to those with a terminal illness.
  • Enact the Human Tissue Bill, providing the legal basis for an opt-out system of organ donation and deliver a public information campaign.
  • Provide free contraception over a phased period, starting with women aged 17-25.
  • Establish exclusion zones around medical facilities.
  • Make the flu vaccine available to more people without charge.
  • Publish a Traveller and Roma mental health action plan.
  • Reform the 2001 Mental Health Act. 

Towns and villages

  • A new approach to regenerating town centres by using existing buildings and unused land for new developments, and promoting for people to live in rural towns and villages. 
  • Publish a Clean Air Strategy which will partly involve investing in the network of monitoring stations to evaluate air quality levels across the country.
  • Extend smoky coal ban to new towns and move towards an outright ban nationwide during the term of the government.
  • Develop the cities of Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford as suitable alternatives to Dublin.  
  • Implement a new Rural Policy to aid recovery and development, particularly after the pandemic. 
  • Look to accelerate the roll out of the National Broadband Plan.
  • Develop a remote working policy to facilitate this option for employees working from home or in co-working spaces in rural areas. 

Drugs misuse

  • Convene a Citizens’ Assembly to consider matters relating to drugs use.
  • Examine regulations and legislation applying to cannabis for medical use and palliative care. 
  • Increase and support drug quality-testing services, particularly at festivals.
  • Legislate against the coercion and use of minors in the sale and supply of drugs.

Elder care

  • Increase homecare hours.
  • Expand Community Intervention Teams to prevent unnecessary hospital admissions and to support timely discharges of patients to their homes.
  • Implement the Dementia Care Strategy and “investigate the possibility of establishing a dementia village along the lines of Hogeweyk in the Netherlands”.
  • Increase the number of specialist palliative care beds countrywide over the next five years, ensuring that there will be a hospice serving every region in the country. 

Housing 

  • Increase the number of social houses by more than 50,000 over five years, with an emphasis on new builds.
  • Help to Buy scheme for new properties and self-build properties will be retained and expanded.
  • The Rebuilding Ireland home loan will also be expanded, and the Mortgage to Rent scheme will be strengthened.
  • Progress a State-backed affordable home purchase scheme. 
  • For tackling homelessness, move away from dormitory style accommodation on a long-term basis and instead provide suitable tenancies.
  • Increase funding for drug-free hostels.
  • Increase funding from €2 million to €6 million for local authority discretionary funding for social housing projects.
  • Introduce social housing passport to allow people to move from one local authority list to another. 
  • Strengthen regulatory and enforcement mechanisms for short-term lettings.
  • Set up a Commission on Housing to examine issues in the provision of housing such as tenure, standards and sustainability. 

Agriculture

  • Establish a well-funded Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) transition period.
  • Look for reforms to the CAP to reward farmers for sequestering carbon, restoring biodiversity and producing clean energy.
  • Conduct a review of the means test disregards for the Farm Assist scheme.
  • Further investment and support for animal, dairy and tillage farmers.
  • Legislate for an independent Agriculture Appeals Review panel. 
  • Carry out a biodiversity survey on every farm. 

Pensions

  • Maintain the State pension and get rid of the need to sign on and actively seek work for those who retire at 65. 
  • 65-year-olds who retire can receive an early retirement allowance at the same rate as jobseekers benefit without the need to sign on, partake in any activation measures or actively seek work. 
  • Establish a Commission on Pensions to examine sustainability and eligibility issues with State pensions and the social insurance fund. 

Direct Provision

  • End the Direct Provision system and replace it with a new International Protection accommodation policy with a not-for-profit approach.
  • Publish a White Paper by the end of this year to set out how this new system will be structured. 

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Gender

  • Legislate to require publication of the gender pay gap in large companies.
  • Remove the need for people aged 16 and 17 to require two specialist reports before being able to apply for legal gender recognition. 

Childcare 

  • Extend paid parental leave for parents in their baby’s first year.
  • Enable more remote, flexible working arrangements for parents to accommodate their parenting and childcare choices.
  • Set up an agency, Childcare Ireland, to assist in the expansion of the childcare sector. 

Policing

  • Establish the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement to be its own statutory body.
  • Create a new dedicated Family Court within the existing court structure. 
  • Establish a gambling regulator. 
  • Introduce hate crime legislation within one year of the new government. 

Culture and sport

  • Set up a taskforce containing members of different departments to develop a way of sustaining arts and culture during and after the economic recovery from Covid-19. 
  • Develop a stimulus package to support the sector during and after the pandemic. 
  • Set up a Night-Time Economy taskforce in the first 30 days of government. 
  • Review the inclusiveness and participation in funded sports to ensure gender, ethnicity and culture are not a barrier. 

Education

  • Set up a Citizens’ Assembly on the future of education at primary and secondary level.
  • Seek to further reduce pupil-teacher ratios in primary schools. 
  • Carry out an audit and inventory of all school buildings, infrastructure and facilities. 
  • Develop a long-term sustainable funding model for higher level education.
  • Increase the number of new apprenticeships to at least 10,000 per year between now and 2025. 

United Ireland, the EU and foreign affairs

  • Set up a unit within the Department of the Taoiseach to work towards a consensus on a “shared island”. 
  • Look to adopt an all-island approach to national planning frameworks. 
  • Ensure any Decade of Centenaries events are marked in an “inclusive, appropriate and sensitive” way. 
  • Undertake a “strategic review” of the relationship between Britain and Ireland in 2020/2021.
  • Oppose any annexation of territory taken by force, such as in the Crimean Peninsula. 

Local government

  • Establish a Citizens’ Assembly on the type of directly elected mayor and local government structure best suited to Dublin in 2021.
  • Introduce “practical measures” to encourage more women to stand for local election in 2024.  

Political reform

  • Establish an Electoral Commission to provide independent oversight, information and conduct elections and referendums by the end of 2021.
  • Hold a national consultation to hear from young people about better ways for their voices to be heard, and the issues they want the government to focus on.
  • Set up a singular media division within a government department for broadcast, print and online media policy functions.
  • Review and reform defamation laws.  

 - With reporting by Ronán Duffy, Ian Curran and Michelle Hennessy. 

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