Tuesday 27 September 2016

Revealed: Fine Gael's election manifesto includes 200k jobs, strict rules on trolleys, and new package for elderly

Niall O'Connor and Philip Ryan

Published 02/02/2016 | 21:58

Michael Noonan and Enda Kenny
Michael Noonan and Enda Kenny

FINE Gael ministers have pledged to introduce strict rules surrounding patients lying on trolleys, a new package for the elderly and radical new laws in the area of cyber-crime at the final parliamentary party meeting before the General Election.

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Seven Cabinet members tonight briefed TDs and senators on the party’s manifesto as Taoiseach Enda Kenny used his party to “go out on the doorsteps with confidence”.

Mr Kenny received a round of applause at the meeting in Leinster House, at which he insisted that the country’s strong economy will finally allow the government, if re-elected, to fund effective public services.

TDs heard that the manifesto will contain elements on climate change and supports for disabilities - areas the Government has been accused of neglecting.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said a key plank of the Fine Gael manifesto will be the creation of 200,000 new jobs by 2020.

Giving his own lengthy briefing to those present, Health Minister Leo Varadkar called on candidates to hammer home the message to “keep the recovery going”.

Mr Varadkar said that “incremental improvements” will take place in the health service but that the problems can not be resolved in the short term.

In a pledge deemed significant by a number of sources present, Mr Varadkar spoke about introducing new trolley targets for hospitals whereby they will be required to improve on their numbers by five per cent each year.

He is understood to have spoke about moving from the trolley count system to a “patient experience model”, that has been put in place in the UK.

“He spoke about introducing new targets in order to make hospitals more accountable,” said a source.

Mr Varadkar also said the manifesto will include a package for the elderly which will include improvements to home supports.

Bed capacities will be increased in hospitals, a new stage of step down bed facilities will be introduced and further investment in palliative care for the regions.

Mr Varadkar also pledged to restore dental benefits for PRSI payers.

But he said the health manifesto will contain realistic commitments and will be fully costed.

“He said there will be no promises he cannot honour,” said a source.

Meanwhile, Justice Frances Fitzgerald pledged radical new laws aimed at tackling cyber crime.

She also spoke about the setting up of a family court and plans to investigate the finances of criminals who claim free legal aid, a proposal recently revealed in the Irish Independent.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said Fine Gael has proven it has a strong record on the North, while Arts Minister Heather Humphreys spoke about keeping momentum going in relation to the 1916 commemorations.

Government TDs have been told to ensure there is a quorum for 9:30am - when Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan is taking questions - suggesting that the Taoiseach will wait until midday before going to the Aras. 

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