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Simon Harris addressign the Dáil for the first time as Taoiseach Oireachtas
first day on the job

Here are the 26 promises new Taoiseach Simon Harris made tonight

Harris said the government will need to ‘be both energetic and laser-focused’ on delivery in several key areas.

IN HIS FIRST address to the Dáil as Taoiseach, Simon Harris made close to 30 promises that he intends to deliver on during his time in office. 

Harris told the Dáil that the government will need to “be both energetic and laser-focused” on delivery in several key areas, including housing, health, and help for families, farmers, and small businesses. 

The new Taoiseach also said he plans on enhancing security, as well as “exerting” Ireland’s influence in the world. 

Health

When it comes to health, Harris issued several quickfire promises in his Dáil speech. 

“This Government will increase capacity and improve access in our health service,” Harris told the Dáil..

He said this means “opening more beds, more theatres and recruiting more GPs, more consultants, more nurses and more therapists.”

He also committed to introducing the Mental Health Bill and reforming mental health services.

The government has been drafting the Mental Health Amendment Bill legislation since 2016. 

It is close to ten years since an expert group tasked with reviewing the Mental Health Act 2001 recommended 165 changes to the law.

Harris also referenced his time as Health minister, remarking that he had the “privilege as Minister to bring the Slaintecare implementation plan to Government”.

Security 

In his address to the Fine Gael Ard Fheis last weekend, Harris said he will place a significant focus on “law and order”.

He reiterated this in his address to the Dáil this evening and said he would convene a “Dublin City Centre taskforce to chart a path towards a safer and vibrant Dublin.”

Harris re-appointed Helen McEntee to the role of Justice Minister and said he will task her with fast-tracking legislation to give judges new powers to make sure “heinous criminals serve long sentences before they are even considered for release”.

Last November, McEntee told reporters that her Department was looking as changes that would mean certain “heinous crimes”, such as murder and rape, would not come before the parole board for 20, 30 or 40 years, or even longer, after being sentenced.

Harris said he’s also tasked McEntee with bringing in body cameras and “up-to-date technology” to help gardaí. 

An estimated €2.1 million has been spent on a trial of body worn cameras in four divisions which will run during this current quarter.

He also committed to bringing forward new measures to increase penalties for knife crime and antisocial behaviour, increasing the number of prison spaces, and giving the Criminal Assets Bureau more powers to strip criminals of their assets more quickly.

Social Protection promises and eduction 

Harris also issued some quickfire promises on behalf of Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys. 

“I want Minister Heather Humphreys to extend hot school meals to more schools, make thousands more carers eligible to receive the carer’s allowance, and to report back before the Budget on means-tested payments for family carers,” said Harris.

The government last year pledged to expand the hot school meals programme to all primary schools by 2030

Harris said he’s also tasked Humphreys with “prioritising the auto-enrolment legislation” and on addressing “the impact of minimum wage increases on employers’ PRSI contributions”.

The new Taoiseach added that Humphreys will be asked to “fast track legislation to include child minders in the National Childcare Scheme”

Childcare providers must be registered with Tusla to qualify for the National Childcare Scheme, but very few child minders in Ireland are registered, meaning no financial subsidies are available to them under the scheme.

In the Dáil, Harris also pledged to “develop new pathways for young people into further and higher education”.

Housing, farmers, and small businesses 

When it comes to housing, Harris said it is the “first and foremost” priority of the government and that he will “elevate our level of ambition and urgency on housing”. 

“We want to make sure young people see their future in Ireland,” added Harris.

At the Fine Gael Ard Fheis, Harris committed to delivering 250,000 homes between 2025 and 2030

While no exact figures were mentioned in the Dáil, Harris said “we are going to build more homes and drive home ownership”.

He also committed to extending the development charger waiver “so that it remains cheaper to build and cheaper to buy a home”.

The Government estimated that the development charges waiver and the water connection charges refund scheme reduced house building costs by an average of €12,650 per home. 

The temporary measure was intended to last for one year, until 24 April 2024, and on the condition that the home be completed no later than 31 December 2025.

Harris then called on Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue to “deliver on my commitment to establish new vet schools in rural Ireland” and committed to “building” on the Fodder Transport Measures announced earlier today. 

The financial contribution will offset transport costs of hay, fodder beet, straw and silage for feeding, where a distance of more than 75km is involved.

Elsewhere, Harris made somewhat vague promises in relation to small businesses, remarking that he will task newly appointed Enterprise Minister Peter Burke with “developing a number of practical measures which will ease the burden of small business in the near future”.

This will include Burke working with Local Enterprise Offices to “maximise their capacity to provide grants, mentoring and training to small businesses in each county”.

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