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Jobs stimulus, insurance reform and farm payments in draft coalition plans

  • Major spend on Metrolink, Luas and light rail
  • 50,000 social housing target
  • Bike To Work scheme to expand
  • Outstanding issues on tax, pensions and social welfare
  • Green TD says there's enough in deal for party to agree to
  • 'Lot of good work done' - Coveney

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Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin arriving at Government Buildings as leaders of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party are expected to sign off on the draft agreement on a programme for government after negotiations concluded. Photo: Mark Condren

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin arriving at Government Buildings as leaders of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party are expected to sign off on the draft agreement on a programme for government after negotiations concluded. Photo: Mark Condren

14/06/2020 Tanaiste Simon Coveney TD arrives at Government Buildings on Merrion Street, Dublin today.Photo:Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos

14/06/2020 Tanaiste Simon Coveney TD arrives at Government Buildings on Merrion Street, Dublin today.Photo:Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos

Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

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Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin arriving at Government Buildings as leaders of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party are expected to sign off on the draft agreement on a programme for government after negotiations concluded. Photo: Mark Condren

A JOBS stimulus package to help the recovery from the massive economic impact of the coronavirus crisis, fresh efforts to reform the insurance sector and new payments for farmers are included in the draft coalition deal that may be finalised as early as today

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Eamon Ryan of the Green Party have arrived at Government Buildings for a meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of Fine Gael.

They will trash out the remaining outstanding issues like the pension age and plans for income taxes.

The three leaders are also to discuss how the new government will operate, including issues like the communications between the parties.

Independent.ie understands that the majority of the proposed Programme for Government has been agreed.

Details filtering out this evening include plans for a jobs stimulus plan in July and a National Recovery Plan in October in a bid to speed recovery from the massive economic hit caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The jobs stimulus plan will be focused on measures to help the hospitality sector and small and medium enterprises and has been pushed by both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

The National Recovery Plan will be more broad, taking in additional sectors.

Both plans would also be 'regional proofed' due to the impact Covid-19 has had on the economy in rural areas.

There is to be a Cabinet committee dedicated to insurance reform given the challenge to businesses of rising premiums in recent years.

There are also plans for an insurance unit within the Gardaí to tackle fraudulent claims.

A new system of REPS payments for farmers who engage in environmentally friendly practices is to be put in place as early as next year.

This will be funded with ring-fenced money from carbon taxes.

There will also be a new Food Ombudsman to look at the chain of production and the prices farmers are getting for their produce.

The Green Party has secured a commitment for a 7pc-a-year reduction in carbon emissions.

A detailed carbon budget is to be prepared by the end of the year outlining the areas where that’s going to be achieved over the course of a five-year government.

In education there will be a major focus on preparing for schools to reopen as the coronavirus crisis continues.

Funding will have to be assessed to meet new costs like cleaning that arise as a result.

Education reforms are also to include a renewed focus on apprenticeships including training people to retrofit homes for energy efficiency.

The draft Programme for Government, which has been seen by Independent.ie, also states: “In relation to new transport infrastructure, the Government is committed to a 2:1 ratio of expenditure between new public transport infrastructure and new roads over its lifetime.

“This ratio will be maintained in each Budget by the Government. In the event of an under-spend on roads, this will not impact on public transport spending,” it adds.

Key to this pledge will be major investment in the delivery of Metrolink, LUAS and other light rail expansion, DART expansion along with a new routes interconnector and the continued roll out of the Bus Connects projects.

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OUTLIER: Eamon Ryan outside Government Buildings on Friday. 
Photo: David Conachy

OUTLIER: Eamon Ryan outside Government Buildings on Friday. Photo: David Conachy

OUTLIER: Eamon Ryan outside Government Buildings on Friday. Photo: David Conachy

The next government will also review public transport fares and introduce incentives for off peak travel. And they will introduce a “national integrated public transport system with an integrated timetables” and a “one tag-on ticketing system” with coordination between bus and rail operators.

In terms of housing the draft Programme for Government is said to include an ambition to deliver 50,000 social homes over the course of the government.

It includes a goal of ramping up the building of affordable housing on State-owned land - including homes for purchase and cost rental.

The Land Development Agency LDA would be involved in delivering this.

The Green Party had concerns over LDA controlled land being given to private developers.

Fianna Fáil has pushed for an emphasis on affordable and social housing.

A source said that under the draft programme the focus for the LDA will be delivering social and affordable homes on State-owned land.

The cap on the amount local authorities can spend on social housing developments without getting the sign off from central government is to treble from the current €2m to €6m.

This is intended to speed up the process of such developments getting shovels in the ground and it would give councils autonomy to build larger developments.

The Part V section of planning laws would also be amended so that developments would have to include at least 10pc affordable housing as well as the existing requirement for 10pc

Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party are expected to sign off on a programme for government today.

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Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The document says the new government will commit to an allocation of up to 10pc of the total transport capital budget for cycling projects, and up to 10pc for pedestrian infrastructure.

“The Government commitment to cycling and pedestrian projects will be set at up to 20% of the 2020 capital budget (€360 million) per year for the lifetime of the Government,” it says

“This commitment will deliver a five-year, multi-annual funding programme linked with a specific target of new separated cycling and walking infrastructure which will be delivered or under construction by end 2024,” it adds.

Separately, every local authority will be mandated to adopt “a high-quality cycling policy, carry out an assessment of their roads network and develops cycle network plans”.

There is also a commitment to “dramatically increase” the number of children walking and cycling to primary and secondary school by “mandating the Department of Transport to work with schools across Ireland, local authorities, the Green Schools programme and local initiatives, including Cycle Bus and School Streets”.

The government will also “ramp up” the Cycle Right programme which sees children given cycling lessons in primary school

They will also widen the eligibility of the Bike to Work scheme and increase the use of e-bikes.

They will also move to significantly reduce emission targets by “decarbonise our transport fleet with a particular focus on cards and light goods vehicles”.

The document says this includes a commits to legislate a ban on the registration of new fossil-fuelled cars and light vehicles from 2030 onwards and phase out diesel and petrol cars from Irish cities from the same year.

On aviation, the document says the new government recognises that “connectivity is essential to our economic development” and adds that they “recognise the huge value of our aviation sector in supporting economic development, international connectivity and tourism via our airports”.

It says they will deliver “capital programmes required to support services and ensure safety at our State and regional airports”.

The government will “also support EU and international action to reduce aviation emissions in line with the aims of the Paris Agreement and the UNFCCC”.

Government formation negotiations between the three parties continued until almost 4am this morning.

There is a number of "outstanding issues" that remain to be decided upon.

They have been identified as issues relating to tax, pensions and social welfare.

Further contacts may happen between party spokespersons and the three party's deputy leaders before the draft document is sent to the three leaders.

Fianna Fáil's Micheál Martin, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of Fine Gael and the Green Party's Eamon Ryan are on standby to meet today.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said "a lot of good work" was done last night and the three parties "effectively have a text" for a Programme for Government.

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Simon Coveney. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Simon Coveney. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Simon Coveney. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Mr Coveney - who led the Fine Gael negotiating team - said he believes the plans in the draft document are "good for the country".

Speaking to reporters as he arrived at Government Buildings he said there are a "very small number of issues" for the three leaders to finalise.

He said he hopes and is confident that the three parties will be able to sell it to their members as well as the Irish public.

Should they sign off on the document it will be the first time a coalition government deal has been agreed between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael whose divisions date back to the Civil War.

One of the Green Party's negotiators, Ossian Smyth tweeted at 4:34am: "The three negotiating teams agreed most of a programme for government this morning.

"A small number of issues have been left to the party leaders to decide later today. A lot of good stuff in there!"

One source involved in talks yesterday said there had been "a very good atmosphere" where "people were determined to get a deal done".

Fine Gael's demand for a commitment that there be no increases in income tax or USC is understood to be one issue that is to be thrashed out by the party leaders.

Fine Gael want a guarantee income tax and USC won't be raised in the next Budget and that it they could even be reduced when the economy recovers.

Another major issue is the qualification age for the State pension.

Fianna Fail wants the rise in the pension age to 67, due to happen next year, to be delayed.

During the talks this has been resisted by Fine Gael, which has been insisting on it being increased in line with a long-running strategy aimed at reducing State pension costs – albeit with a transitional payment for people until they reach 67.

Other outstanding issues include the details of a Fine Gael-proposed jobs and stimulus package for July to help recover from the massive economic hit caused by the coronavirus crisis.

The party is also seeking a 'New Care Deal for Ireland' which includes increased State support for childcare, parental leave and home help services for older people.

And the final details of new REPS payments for farmers to ecourage environmentally friendly practices is also outstanding.

Individual chapters of the draft Programme for Government are said to have been agreed by the negotiating teams and the full document will run to more than 100 pages.

Any deal will have to be approved by Oireachtas members in the three parties and ultimately their wider membership.

The Green Party has a high bar for approving any deal.

More than two-thirds of its 2,700 will have to be in favour of the agreement for the party to go into coalition.

Fianna Fáil need a simple majority of its more than 15,000 members.

Fine Gael have an electoral college system which gives the greater weight to its elected represenatatives than the wider membership.

Green Party TD Malcolm Noonan said he believes there is enough in the draft deal for his party members to be "very happy with".

He told RTÉ's The Week in Politics he hopes the Greens' parliamentary party will unanimously sign off on the deal as early as today before it goes to the wider party.

Health Minister Simon Harris said his party is hopefull that there will be a "final breakthrough" today.

Fianna Fáil TD Mary Butler her party's priority is "abosutely not" getting Mr Martin installed as Taoiseach and avoiding facing the electorate.

She said the party has been "very strong" in the area of housing during the talks and insisted Fianna Fáil has been "to the fore" in pushing for a statutory home care deal.

Speaking as he was leaving the talks, Fianna Fáil leader Mr Martin said: "The three leaders will be meeting again in the morning and should be in a position to see this through then."

He was asked if there has been agreement on the issue of the State pension age but did not answer directly.

Mr Martin said: "Tomorrow we'll be publishing the full document ... we made good progress today and I think we should be in a position tomorrow morning to sign off on the document."

He added: "We're nearly there - a lot of progress made."

Online Editors