Tuesday 27 June 2017

Greens fail to implement half of hard-won policy concessions

ine Kerr Political Correspondent

HALF of the concessions supposedly won by the Greens for inclusion in the revised Programme for Government have not been implemented.

The 12-month-old renegotiated deal contained 41 pages of plans, ambitions and targets, but in many major areas the projects are still not up and running. The Greens could now face the electorate with much of their promised programme -- including a number of flagship policies -- unfulfilled.

Among the items not yet advanced is a climate change bill, despite this being a cornerstone of the Greens' work in Government. And the party's grassroots are nervous about whether it will get published before an election.

In other areas, the Greens have yet to get a fuel poverty strategy in place despite a surge in the number of disconnections. It had promised such a strategy as "a matter of urgency" by the end of 2009.

Despite claiming that those "most at risk of fuel poverty will be protected" when the carbon levy is introduced, there is still no sign of an increase in the fuel allowance.

Plans to ban corporate donations are progressing slowly and proposals to take on 1,000 graduates in government departments have yet to to get off the ground.

An ambitious plan to overhaul local and national government structures requires the establishment of the Independent Electoral Commission -- but that too has failed to get the go-ahead yet .

Crucially, the prized multi-billion project of Metro North, which was given the thumbs-up only 12 months ago, is still in doubt ahead of the Budget.

A register of lobbyists has not yet appeared, nor has a single 33pc rate for tax relief on private pension provision or the phasing-out of fur farming.

Progress

Last night one of the negotiators of the deal, senator Dan Boyle, claimed that a third of the programme has been "completely implemented", while "substantial progress" is being made on another third.

The final third of the programme is "making progress".

Having introduced a ban on stag hunting, passed civil partnership legislation and helped to get some credit for small businesses, Mr Boyle said the party now wanted to make an impact on corporate donations and political reform. "These are the little things that irk people," he said.

Clare-based Green councillor Brian Meaney said getting the Programme for Government implemented had become a "secondary issue", given the need to tackle the banking and economic crisis.

While the party has many achievements in the areas of planning, animal welfare and building regulations, not having the climate change legislation introduced is one of the things that "sticks in the craw", he said.

In the area of education, however, the party has managed to get most of its plans implemented. More teachers have been employed, the capitation grants have been maintained and third-level fees have not been re-introduced.

But there are now major question marks over whether the next batch of 150 new teachers, as promised in the programme for 2011, will be delivered on. The party's education spokesman Paul Gogarty is adamant that "it has to happen".

"It can't be compromised on," he said. "I can't go through all the non-negotiables for us in this Budget but no matter what the pressure is, there are certain things we can't compromise on," he said.

Incentives

Getting the Programme for Government implemented gives the Greens "plenty of incentives" to stay in government, Mr Gogarty said.

But Labour's Liz McManus claimed the Greens had made great play of going into Government to tackle the "defining issue" of climate change but failed to produce the legislation required. Crucially, no meeting of the Government's sub-committee on climate change has taken place this year.

Irish Independent

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