Tuesday 25 October 2016

Plan paints a picture of an Ireland reborn that offers something for everybody

Published 06/05/2016 | 02:30

Independent deputies Denis Naughten, Noel Grealish, Mattie McGrath and Michael Collins arrive for talks. Photo: Tom Burke
Independent deputies Denis Naughten, Noel Grealish, Mattie McGrath and Michael Collins arrive for talks. Photo: Tom Burke

To read the executive summary of the new Programme for Government, you'd wonder was the author abroad on holidays for the past 70 days. It suggests the 'New Partnership Government' is about to "embrace the opportunity presented" by the electorate on February 26.

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Not many people in Fine Gael saw what happened on Election Day as an opportunity. The phrase more commonly used was "disaster".

But whatever you might think of Enda Kenny, he has managed to win over some unlikely characters.

At 156 pages, 'A Partnership for a Fairer Ireland' is more than double the size of the Fine Gael/Labour coalition's effort five years ago. It paints a picture of an Ireland reborn.

Few expect this government to last five years - but they are planning for it, and there is something for everybody and every challenge.

The most pressing issues, the document says, are housing and health.

It insists we can look forward to a suite of "measures to revitalise all of Ireland" so that the benefits of the recovery are felt "inside every doorstep and in every community".

At the same time as the recovery sweeps the countryside, there will be "targeted investment" to "regenerate our urban centres".

Old people will get pension hikes and be able to "live independent and active lives in their communities". And policies will be introduced "that can improve the life outcomes of children".

In this new Ireland, criminals will be subjected to tougher sentencing and the doors of rural garda stations will swing open once again.

Fine Gael and the Independents see agriculture as the "heartbeat of the rural economy" and want the next generation of farmers to make Ireland "the highest quality food producing nation in the world".

That will be achieved while creating an image of the country as "the green island" that has a low-carbon footprint.

This will be the most wonderful place to live with "thriving communities in urban and rural Ireland".

Setting out an aim no government in Irish history has ever achieved, the programme says: "We want an Ireland that looks after its people from the time they come into the world to the time they leave." That sounds like an Ireland we all want. The plan will be difficult to deliver without busting the national coffers again - but it appears this is what we voted for.

Voters kicked Fine Gael, banished the Labour Party, offered Fianna Fáil a road to redemption and made Independents the kingmakers.

Perhaps the most telling paragraph in the whole document is this: "We realise that to govern is a great responsibility, but equally a great gift. We are humbled by the opportunity and will give all we have to creating a Fairer Ireland."

Humbled, no less. Maybe this could be a positive day for Ireland.

Irish Independent

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