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Irish Government formation: Varadkar, Martin and Ryan agree coalition deal - here's their plan for next five years

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Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin who is set to become Ireland's next premier, outside Government Buildings in Dublin. Niall Carson/PA Wire

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin who is set to become Ireland's next premier, outside Government Buildings in Dublin. Niall Carson/PA Wire

PA

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin who is set to become Ireland's next premier, outside Government Buildings in Dublin. Niall Carson/PA Wire

Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party have formally agreed on a programme for government.

The three party leaders met in Government Building and signed off on a document which will pave the way for a historic coalition.

After months of negotiation Micheal Martin, Leo Varadkar and Eamon Ryan agreed to enter government pending the approval of their parties.

The document will be circulated to their parliamentary party members in the coming hours before meetings expected to take place this evening.

It comes as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar revealed that he and Micheal Martin have come to an agreement on a rotating Taoiseach system, indicating Mr Martin will be the first person to hold the office.

The future of Covid-19 unemployment payments and the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) will be among the first tough decisions taken by the proposed new government.

Decisions on the both schemes brought in to help people who lost their jobs in the coronavirus crisis and shield those who kept them will be highly contentious.

Their prioritisation in the Programme for Government underlines the challenges that will face the new coalition from day one of a new administration.

The future distribution of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment will be "based on the principles of fairness and equality".

Also included in the July Stimulus will be new taskforces including ministers, independent experts and stakeholders, for each sector of the economy.

The enactment of legislation for a new €2bn Credit Guarantee Scheme is also listed among "immediate actions".

A National Economic Plan is to be set out in October on the same day as Budget 2021 for charting the "longer-term jobs-led recovery".

"Underpinning the National Economic Plan will be the need to protect the Irish workforce and economy to the greatest extent possible from future shocks due to another public health crisis, Brexit, digital transformation and climate change," the document says.

The National Retrofitting Plan is also set to be announced on Budget Day with an aim to increase energy efficiency in at least 500,000 homes by 2030.

Homes will be grouped together to reduce costs and retrofitting will start in the Midlands.

The proposed new government is promising "jobs-led" recovery from the economic-shock of the coronavirus pandemic.

There are plans for a "July Stimulus" to boost the hospitality sector and set out the future of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme next month.

There are 12 'missions' in the proposed Programme for Government agreed between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party.

Under plans for "Re-igniting and Renewing the Economy" the focus will be to "get people back to work as soon as possible".

There is a target of creating 200,000 new jobs by 2025 "as well as helping people currently unemployed due to Covid-19 back to work."

The aim is to create a "stronger, fairer and more sustainable economy prepared for the next phase of disruptive technologies and on a pathway to a low-carbon future".

The jobs-led recovery will depend on Ireland's ability to secure markets for our goods and services and attract investment into the country.

The document also highlights the importance of a "just transition" as fossil fuel dependence is ended and there is an ambition to "create economic opportunity through climate action".

There is a plan for a Recovery Fund as a "targeted stimulus" to increase domestic demand and employment though the document does not say how much it will be.

It is to be available this year and in 2021 and 2022 and have three elements - Infrastructure Development; Re-skilling and Re-training and Supporting Investments.

Immediate action will be the "July stimulus" which will set out a pathway for the future of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme.

In relation to taxation the plan is to target areas like carbon, sugar and plastics for hikes.

It says: "We will utilise taxation measures, as well as expenditure measures, to close the deficit and fund public services if required.

"In doing so, we will focus any tax rises on those taxes which tax behaviours with negative externalities such as carbon tax, sugar tax, plastics etc."

Other measures in Budgetary Policy include:

  • Continued commitment to the 12.5pc corporation tax rate;
  • A commitment to negotiate a new public pay deal;
  • A new regime to ensure the "accountability" for senior banking executives;
  • New legislation on the Local Property Tax that ensures most homeowners won't get an increase and new homes are brought into the net.

There are plans for Insurance Reform including setting up a Cabinet committee on the issue and expanding the Garda Economic Crime Bureau which deals with fraud.

Here's further details on their plan for government over the next five years:

Transport

  • A 2:1 split on public transport spending over new road infrastructure during the lifetime of the government
  • €360m a year to be spent on infrastructure for walking and cycling
  • Legislate for e-scooters and e-bikes;
  • Support the 'greening' of the taxi fleet and enhance accessibility for people with disabilities;
  • Review and reduce speed limits where appropriate for road safety and carbon emissions;
  • Major investment in Metrolink, Luas and other light-rail projects and expansion of the DART network
  • Continued roll-out of the BusConnects projects
  • Banning the registration of new fossil-fuelled cars from 2030 onwards and phasing out diesel and petrol cars from cities from the same year

Housing

  • An ambition to deliver 50,000 social homes over the course of the government
  • Using the Land Development Agency to ramp up the building of affordable housing – both purchase and cost-rental on State-owned land
  • Raising the spending cap on social housing developments that local authorities can carry out without central government approval, from €2m to €6m
  • Reducing and preventing homelessness is a "major priority";
  • Plans to promote residential occupancy of rural town centres;
  • Include a requirement for affordable housing in Part V planning laws.
  • Introduction of the ‘cost-rental’ to increase affordability
  • A referendum on each citizen’s right to housing

Agriculture

  • A new Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) system of payments for farmers
  • The introduction of a flagship environmental scheme under the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy (CAP)
  • Seek to accelerate the roll-out of the National Broadband Plan (NBP);
  • A new strategy to expand afforestation;
  • Transforming the scale of organic farming with delivery of a fair price to farmers at its heart;
  • A new Food Ombudsman to look at the chain of production and the prices farmers are getting for their produce and enforce the unfair trading practices directive
  • The establishment of more producer organisations to build strength in the market place
  • Prioritising the roll-out of the National Broadband Plan (NBP)
  • No ban on live animal exports but increased veterinary oversight of such trade
  • A focus on remote working to help balanced regional development
  • Future State funding for the greyhound sector would be contingent on meeting strict animal welfare standards

Health

  • A focus on responding to the public health emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic
  • Ensuring capacity for future surges of Covid-19;
  • Identify the impact of the pandemic on Sláintecare plans.
  • Maintain intense focus on Covid-19 with four principles: "isolate, test, trace and treat"
  • "Learn the lessons of Covid-19" to ensure an agile and well-planned response to future pandemics;
  • Abolish in-patient hospital charges for children;
  • Extend free dental care to more children;
  • Extend discretionary medical cards to people with terminal illnesses;
  • Provide free contraception in phases starting with women aged between 17 and 25;
  • Establish exclusion zones around medical facilities;
  • Increase excise tax on tobacco to further discourage smoking;
  • Introduce minimum pricing for alcohol;
  • Bring in restrictions on outlets selling junk-food and beverages near schools;
  • Become an international leader in supporting and caring for people with mental health needs;
  • Examine the regulations surrounding the use of cannabis for medical conditions.
  • Support older people to live in their own homes for as long as possible
  • An increased income threshold for medical cards for the over-70s
  • A new statutory homecare scheme for the elderly
  • The extension of free GP services to people in receipt of carers’ payments
  • An expansion of respite services to reduce waiting times
  • The extension of free GP care to more children

Pensions

The increase of the State pension age to 67 will be deferred next year pending the outcome of a Commission on Pensions.

The pension was due to increase to 67 in January next year but the programme for government states this will now be deferred.

A Commission on Pensions will examine and report on the issue by June 2021 and the new government will act on its recommendations before the end of next year.

The State pension age was a divisive issue during the general election campaign and Fianna Fáil had insisted during government formation talks that the increase should not go ahead.

During the negotiations, Fine Gael pushed for the pension age to increase as had been planned.

However, the new programme for government states: “Pending the report of the Commission on Pensions and any subsequent Government decisions on its recommendations, the State Pension age will remain at 66 years and the increase to 67 years will be deferred.”

The document says this “will allow full consideration by Government of any permanent changes”.

Meanwhile, 65 year olds who are required to or chose to retire early will be able to receive an ‘Early Retirement Allowance or Pension’ at the same rate as jobseekers benefit without a requirement to sign on, partake in any activation measures or be available for and genuinely seeking work.

The Commission on Pensions will also examine “sustainability and eligibility issues” with state pensions and the Social Insurance Fund. The Commission will outline options for Government to address issues including qualifying age, contribution rates, total contributions and eligibility requirements.

Childcare Education

  • More State support for childcare, including increased investment
  • Seek to make further progress in reducing primary class sizes
  • Funding to be increased, with aim of reducing reliance on voluntary contributions
  • Financial support for schools to meet costs caused by coronavirus, such as extra cleaning
  • New impetus for digital education strategy in light of Covid-19 experience
  • No change in €3,000 student contribution charge for university education
  • A review of Susi supports
  • Address funding challenges in higher education, including impact of Covid
  • More funding for research, including foundational/discovery research
  • Tackle sexual harassment in higher and further education
  • A greater focus on apprenticeships

Environment

  • A 7pc average annual cut in carbon emissions to fight climate change
  • A new Climate Action Bill legislating for Ireland to be carbon neutral by 2050
  • Extend the smoky coals ban to new towns and move towards a full nationwide ban;
  • The development of a scheme to create a nationwide network of water fountains to reduce plastic bottle litter.
  • Five-year carbon budgets to set out emissions for all sectors
  • A review of the National Development Plan to ensure it complies with climate action obligations
  • A plan for deposit and return scheme for cans and glass
  • A ban on single-use plastics
  • Retrofitting of 500,000 homes by 2030 to improve energy efficiency
  • No Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal in Shannon and a government statement saying it won’t support such infrastructure in future
  • Oil and gas exploration in Ireland is to end

Justice

  • A commitment to abolish Direct Provision and develop a new scheme for accommodating refugees
  • Plans for faster asylum application process
  • A new anti-racism strategy
  • Efforts to increase diversity in An Garda Síochána
  • New hate crime legislation
  • A ban on so-called ‘gay conversion’ therapy
  • A commission on the future of the Defence Forces leading to a permanent pay review body
  • The setting of targets for recruiting people from ethnic minorities into the civil service

Economy

  • A jobs stimulus plan in July focused on measures to help the hospitality sector and small and medium enterprises (SMEs)
  • A National Recovery Plan that will be more broad, taking in additional sectors to be announced in October
  • Both plans would also be ‘regional proofed’ due to the impact Covid-19 has had on the economy in rural areas
  • The creation of a new SME taskforce and immediate enactment of legislation to help SMEs access cheaper finance
  • A dedicated Cabinet committee on insurance reform due to rising premiums in recent years
  • An insurance unit within the Gardaí to tackle fraudulent claims
  • To help boost international visitors to Ireland – 2023, the tenth anniversary of ‘The Gathering’, is to be the ‘Year of the Invitation’
  • The possibility of linking the Wild Atlantic Way and the Giant’s Causeway trail in the North is to be explored with authorities there

Belfast Telegraph