Friday 2 December 2016

Our new government: Ross and Zappone among three new Independent ministers

First-time buyer and rural Ireland promises
Taxpayer to pick up bill for Independents' deals
Denis Naughten also in line for Cabinet

Published 06/05/2016 | 02:30

Tipped for Cabinet: Katherine Zappone. Photo: Tom Burke
Tipped for Cabinet: Katherine Zappone. Photo: Tom Burke

Enda Kenny has become the first Fine Gael leader to be elected Taoiseach for a second consecutive time.

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It has ended 70 days of political impasse that saw the country come close to a second election on a number of occasions.

Sources say that Katherine Zappone, Shane Ross and Denis Naughten are favourites for the Cabinet positions, with Finian McGrath is likely to get a super junior ministry, which would allow him to sit at Cabinet but not to have voting rights.

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

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

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald is expected to remain in her department and take on the role of Tánaiste.

The make-up of the Government departments is also to change in order to facilitate two new positions: a Minister for Housing and a Minister for Rural Affairs.

The Department of the Environment is to place an extra emphasis on climate change.

A number of the Independents were annoyed last night when the acting Taoiseach decided to force a fourth vote on his nomination shortly after providing them with a draft programme for government.

However, a senior Fine Gael source said: "It is time. The country has waited long enough. More time has been spent working on this document with the Independents than on any previous programme for government."

The programme, called 'A Partnership for a Fairer Ireland', sets out a five-year plan, even though Fine Gael's agreement with Fianna Fáil for the facilitation of a minority government is subject to review at the end of 2018.

The programme states that health and housing are the key challenges facing the new Government.

It promises to meet a target of 25,000 new homes every year by 2020 and to end homelessness.

The percentage of patients waiting longer than six hours in emergency departments is also to drop from the current rate of 32pc to less than 7pc by 2021.

The new government also plans to spend "at least €6.75bn more on public services by 2021 compared to 2016".

Reflecting the influence of rural Independents who are set to back Mr Kenny, a substantial proportion of the funding available will be spent on projects in the regions.

A number of rural garda stations are to be reopened, there are specific commitments on broadband, a 50pc increase in funding for local and regional roads and a recognition that "domestic turf cutters have a traditional right to cut turf".

A citizens' convention will be set up to examine the Eighth Amendment, which gives equal rights to a mother and her unborn child.

The programme for government notes that the new 'partnership' between Fine Gael and members of the Independent Alliance, Rural Alliance and other Independents is "unlike any other established in Ireland since the foundation of the State".

"In forming the government, the traditional rules no longer applied."

It adds that the 32nd Dáil is "diverse but not fragmented" and those involved in government will be "united in our common cause to make life better for every citizen in every part of Ireland".

However, the new Government also accepts that it does "not have a monopoly on good ideas" and promises "greater openness, improved accountability and delivery and more effective public participation".

Irish Independent

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