Monday 20 November 2017

Ten things in Leo Varadkar's 'Republic of Opportunities'

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar after he delivered his first conference speech as party leader at the Fine Gael’s National Conference in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan. Photo: Fergal Phillips
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar after he delivered his first conference speech as party leader at the Fine Gael’s National Conference in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan. Photo: Fergal Phillips
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he wants to build a 'Republic of Opportunity' and you're going to be hearing an awful lot about it between now and the next election.

Fine Gael published its 'Building a Republic of Opportunity' paper today insisting it's not an election manifesto, rather it's a "rolling political programme".

But don't be surprised if some of this comes up when your local Fine Gael Dáil hopeful comes to your door looking for your vote ahead of the next election, whenever that may be.

Mr Varadkar has been talking about creating a Republic of Opportunities since the Fine Gael leadership race in the summer.

Here's ten things in the first draft of his party's plan to make that happen.

Read more: Fine Gael wants to link level of social welfare payments to PRSI contributions

1. Families - Among measures to help parents the party wants to bring in shared parental leave for the first year of a child's life  as well as increase the Homecarers' Tax Credit to recognise the work of parents who stay at home.

2. Equality - Establish a "Commission on the Status of Women in Ireland" to review the effectiveness of initiatives to tackle gender inequality.

3. Health - Bring in further capital investment in the area of Health, in addition to plans to build the new National Maternity and National Children's Hospitals. Details are to be revealed in the imminent National Development Plan.

4. Transport - Link the five main cities in Ireland by motorways with the M20 between Cork and Limerick to be prioritises as well as upgrades to the N4, N5 and the A5/N2 project to connect Dublin to the Northwest.

5. Brexit - Measures including opening six new diplomatic missions around the world to assist Irish companies with trade diversification and bring in a €300m Brexit loan scheme to help small and medium businesses cope with the challenge of leaving the EU.

6. Taxes and Benefits - Continue to cut taxes for middle income earners, merge the USC with PRSI, and link amounts given out in unemployment benefits and other social welfare payments to the level of PRSI contributions an individual has made in their careers.

7. Jobs - Outlaw zero-hour contracts for workers as part of a plan for the creation of "good jobs, with good pay, terms and conditions and pension rights".

8. Education - Prepare for a future where 65pc of children entering primary school now will work in a type of job that does not yet exist. This involves increasing opportunities for apprenticeships and growing access to higher education by people from disadvantaged backgrounds by 50pc.

9. Climate Change - Fulfil Ireland's Paris Climate Agreement commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by at least 80pc below 1990 levels by 2050. The want all new cars and vans sold in Ireland from 2030 to be zero-emission capable and all government departments, agencies and semi-state companies are to operate in a carbon neutral manner by 2050.

10. Sport - Increase sporting activity across the population including by older people and those with disabilities. The party wants State spending on sport to be allocated on the basis that it's used equally for male and female sporting activities.

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