Thursday 23 February 2017

Cabinet to top up rent aid, reopen six garda stations

Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

After securing Cabinet approval, Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald will ask Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan to identify six stations that were closed amid great controversy in 2012 for re-opening on a trial basis. Photo: Steve Humphries
After securing Cabinet approval, Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald will ask Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan to identify six stations that were closed amid great controversy in 2012 for re-opening on a trial basis. Photo: Steve Humphries

The Cabinet is today expected to kickstart plans to reopen six garda stations, as well as introducing an increase in rent supplement. Both proposals formed central planks of the Programme for Government.

After securing Cabinet approval, Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald will ask Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan to identify six stations that were closed amid great controversy in 2012 for re-opening on a trial basis.

During this period, the new Policing Authority will assess the impact of the re-opening of the stations in terms of fighting crime, especially burglaries, theft and public-order offences.

The current garda district boundaries and the location of garda stations will also be examined by the independent body.

A government source said last night that no deadline would be given for the Commissioner to identify the six stations.

Meanwhile, Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar and Housing Minister Simon Coveney will seek formal approval to increase rent supplement levels.

The measure is one of several that underpin the so-called 'confidence and supply' agreement that was struck with Fianna Fáil.

It is understood that the new limits will mean that people who cannot afford the full cost of private rented accommodation will receive greater assistance from the State from July, at a cost of €15m.

While the individual increases will be different per county, many local authorities will see increases of over 15pc.

The plan by the two ministers will also assist households currently on rent supplement who have to 'top up' to meet their rent.

The issue of abortion is also due to be discussed at Cabinet today ahead of the introduction of a bill that would allow for terminations in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

The Taoiseach is expected to tells ministers that Attorney General Máire Whelan has ruled that the legislation is unconstitutional.

The bill, which is being spearheaded by Mick Wallace TD , proposes that women should be allowed to have an abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, where both a perinatologist and obstetrician deem the pregnancy to be non-viable.

Government sources last night said that Mr Kenny was not prepared to allow a free vote on the issue in a move that is likely to cause tensions with the Independent Alliance.

A number of Independent Alliance ministers, including John Halligan, Finian McGrath and Seán Canney, have demanded that no whip be applied.

Their group is due to meet today to discuss the bill.

Separately, ministers will also discuss a motion by the 'Independents 4 Change' group which calls for the establishment of a Commission of Investigation into the sale by Nama of Project Eagle, its Northern Ireland loans portfolio.

Irish Independent

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