Friday 28 October 2016

Revealed: Government deal to cut USC and hike garda numbers

'We're not out to catch Fine Gael offside,' insists Micheál Martin

Kevin Doyle, Niall O'Connor and Cormac McQuinn

Published 04/05/2016 | 02:30

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

The deal between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil sets out plans to cut the USC, hike the old age pension, increase the number of gardaí and provide extra funding for group water schemes.

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Fine Gael has also agreed to set aside more money for housing and to tackle hospital waiting lists as part of the agreement which should keep them in power until at least the end of 2018.

Read More: This broad-brush agreement is largely positive - but there's still little love lost between the two big parties

The two parties also say there will be "targeted supports" to reduce the cost of childcare, as well as the size of primary school classes.

And next year's Budget will be a 2:1 split in terms of spending measures and tax cuts in what will be seen as a win for Fianna Fáil.

Read More: The Politics: The 'new political reality' hits FG TDs

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin last night described the shift towards an emphasis on spending as "fundamental change to what we've experienced". He said his party, which endorsed the document in a unanimous vote, was entering into the deal "in good faith" and wanted "the concept of minority government to work".

"We're not out there to entrap a government or catch a government offside," he said.

In relation to crime, the parties have agreed that funding will be found to increase garda numbers to 15,000.

There will also be investment in CCTV, and the Policing Authority will oversee a review of the boundaries of garda districts and the locations of garda stations.

Read More: 1.5m bills to be sent despite Irish Water deal

On taxation, the document says USC will be reduced on "a fair basis with an emphasis on low- and middle-income earners".

A 'Rainy Day Fund' is to be set up, although Mr Martin admitted they have not agreed on how money should be channelled into this from the €900m available for next year's budget.

Speaking on the Leinster House plinth last night, Mr Martin said housing and health are the "two defining issues of our time".

As a result of the deal, greater supports will be put in place for mortgage holders, and there is a specific commitment to protect the family home.

And the document says government will work to "significantly increase and expedite the delivery of social housing units".

The deal between the two parties also pledges to "take all the necessary action to tackle high variable interest rates."

Rent supplement is to be increased by 15pc depending on a person's location and Fine Gael will extend the roll out of the Housing Assistance Payment.

There will be efforts to improve supports and services for older people to enable them to live independently in their own home. This will include "a provision for pension increases".

The incoming government must also examine all options for increased credit availability in the banking sector.

"We're particularly pleased on the housing front," Mr Martin said. "A significant amount of our housing policy got implemented".

The key commitment on health is a ring-fenced €15m in 2017 for a National Treatment Purchase Fund to urgently address hospital waiting lists.

It also says there must be "a humane approach for discretionary medical card provision".

There is also agreement to restore school guidance counselling services in secondary schools.

The public sector will be reformed to make it more accessible.

A section of the document also relates to the mechanics of how a minority administration will function with the support of Fianna Fáil.


A review of the administration at the end of 2018 is due to take place. "Should an event arise that has the potential to undermine this agreement, efforts will be made to have it resolved by the two party leaders," the document says.

The agreement is described as "political" and "not justiciable".

Fianna Fáil is now set to abstain during votes for Taoiseach and the nomination of ministers. Fianna Fáil will vote oppose or abstain during votes of no confidence in the Government, as well as financial motions.

Micheál Martin's party has also pledged to facilitate budget commitments.

Fine Gael has said it will accept that Fianna Fáil is an "independent party in opposition".

The deal is also subject to acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny getting 58 TDs to back his government.

Irish Independent

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