Tuesday 27 September 2016

Exclusive: Some rural garda stations to be reopened as part of new minority government deal

* Kenny to seek special Dáil sitting tomorrow to appoint new Cabinet
* Three senior ministries and three junior ministries offered to Independents
* Citizen’s Convention to examine the potential repeal of the Eighth Amendment

Niall O'Connor, Kevin Doyle and Cormac McQuinn

Published 05/05/2016 | 14:22

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny is the acting Taoiseach
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny is the acting Taoiseach

UP to six rural garda stations are to be re-opened as part of the new Programme for Government, Independent.ie can reveal.

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A specialist court and agency to deal with mortgage arrears and strict new rules surrounding judicial appointments are also included in the document, which is called ‘A Partnership for a Fairer Ireland’.

And a Citizen’s Convention to examine the potential repeal of the Eighth Amendment has also been agreed, according to sources involved in the process.

Talks between Fine Gael and Independents are nearing completion with the expectation now that Enda Kenny will be re-elected Taoiseach tomorrow morning.

The vote for Taoiseach will be held at 12pm on Friday.

Chief Whip Paul Kehoe told the Dáil that the slot has been scheduled for TDs to elect Enda Kenny.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin gives the parties response to the deal between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail at Leinster House. Pictures:Arthur Carron
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin gives the parties response to the deal between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail at Leinster House. Pictures:Arthur Carron

Talks are continuing with the Independents in Government Buildings about the formation on a new administration.

Sources today said they expect in excess of 10 Independents to support Mr Kenny in the vote in the Dáil.

The Programme for Government will be presented in the Fine Gael parliamentary party this evening for approval.

Significantly, it’s emerged six garda stations will be reopened on a pilot basis. The locations of these will be decided following a review by the Garda Inspectorate, it’s understood.

Proposals made by campaigner David Hall for a new body to deal with the mortgage crisis is also included.

There will be a medical review of cardiac facilities in Waterford Hospital - in a move which will appease Independent TD John Halligan.

The document, which is still being discussed at Government Buildings, has a “heavy agricultural influence”.

It is understood that the following Independents are on the verge of signing the deal: Denis Naughten, Michael Harty, Noel Grealish, Mattie McGrath and the six members of the Independent Alliance.

There are also significant measures aimed at protecting the post office network.

A feasibility study will be carried out into providing motor tax services in post offices and the establishment of so-called e-payment accounts later this year.

And An Post and the Credit Union league will be asked to provide a "suite" of new banking services through post offices.

Read more: How Micheál Martin won sweetest deal in FF history

Addressing the Dáil's Committee on Housing and Homelessness today, acting finance minister Michael Noonan confirmed there are measures in the draft programme for government in relation to mortgage arrears.

He said that while there has been a big decline in the numbers in arrears, there is a hard core of just over 30,000 householders still finding it "difficult to cope".

"In the programme for Government, we are designing a new set of initiatives to deal with that particular cohort and we will see that in the next 24 or 48 hours."

He didn't provide details saying: "I do not wish to breach confidence"

But he said: "This is a major departure to deal specifically with that cohort of people which is not being reached by the existing measures."

Independent.ie understands that Mr Kenny has offered three senior ministries to Independents and three junior ministries.

Sources say that Katherine Zappone, Shane Ross and Denis Naughten are favourites for the Cabinet positions, with Finian McGrath in the running for a super junior ministry which would allow him to sit at Cabinet.

Once re-elected Taoiseach, Mr Kenny will also reshuffle many of his existing Fine Gael ministers and introduce a small number of new faces to his frontbench team.

A source said this afternoon that Leo Varadkar, Simon Coveney, Richard Burton and Paschal Donohoe could all be moving portfolio, while junior minister Simon Harris is in line for promotion.

Among the commitments in the Programme for Government are a series of concessions for rural TDs.

These include a 50pc increase in the budget for local and regional roads over five years, county specific targets for job creation and a €500m fund for regional jobs.

An Oireachtas committee will be assigned the task of developing a “single vision” for health in Ireland.

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