Additonal reporting by Paul Hosford, and Jess Casey
The 100-page programme for government will be given to TDs and senators today, before being released to party members who will vote on its ratification, with TDs saying there is “no guarantee” that the document will pass.
To do so, it will need to “be sold to the sceptics” in the words of one Fine Gael TD.
While much of the commentary has been about what parties fought to keep out of the deal, the real selling will be in the details contained within and the commitments made. To that end, there is already a considerable amount for party members to consider, including a multi-billion-euro stimulus package pushed by Fine Gael to kickstart the economy following Covid-19.
On housing, Fianna Fáil and Green Party negotiators will claim wins as they received commitments on an ambitious plan for housing in Ireland. The programme will commit to increasing the supply of social housing by 50,000 over the course of the government. While the Land Development Agency -LDA) will be used and overseen, the Greens’ demands that private developers have their profits capped has not been included. The LDA will offer affordable home rental and purchase.
There will also be moves made to increase affordable housing, particularly through the Part 5 V planning regulations, which currently state that a development should have 10% social housing.
A referendum on the right to housing is also planned.
While the party leaders are yet to agree on the pension-age issue, a new “total contributions approach” for pensions is also likely to be included in the programme.
Fine Gael has pushed for a guarantee that core income tax and USC rates will not rise, but this has been put to a commission on taxation and social welfare. Fianna Fáil sought a commitment that core social welfare rates will be protected.
With the Green Party mandate, it is no surprise that environment took up much of the 32-day negotiating period.
The deal will see Ireland commit to cutting carbon emissions by 7% a year.
It has also been agreed that the carbon tax will rise to €100 a tonne by 2030 as demanded by the Greens, rather than the €80 a tonne favoured by others.
As reported by the Irish Examiner 10 days ago, the Greens have also won a commitment that the construction of fossil fuel infrastructure, including the planned liquefied natural gas plant earmarked for the Shannon estuary area, will be stopped. There will also be a ban on future exploration of gas in the seas surrounding Ireland.
Plans to continue decarbonisation of the public fleet of vehicles will continue, while the proposed 2030 date for a ban on new petrol and diesel cars will be put on a legislative footing.
Another contentious area was transport, where the Greens have claimed wins. The Greens have secured a deal which will ensure all future capital investment is split 2:1 in favour of public transport over roads. With a number of road projects at contract stage, this will mean a significant investment in public transport.
The document agrees to maintain this spending ratio in future budgets and agrees that any money not spent on roads will not impact public transport. The deal also pledges to look at timetables, fares, and integration of the public transport network, and BusConnects will be extended to the cities of Cork, Galway, Limerick, and Waterford.
It is understood the Green Party will get “there or thereabouts” the 10% funding provision it sought for walking and cycling. Local authorities will be pushed to devise new cycling strategies to increase the number of people who cycle daily.
The deal will commit to no increase in third-level fees, as well as recognising children’s constitutional right to education.
This includes a focus on creating more multi-denominational primary and post-primary schools, and on reducing the pupil-teacher ratio. Other key elements in the programme include a focus on modern languages in primary schools, additional support for children living in homelessness, as well the development of a digital education strategy.
It will also see the establishment of a united Ireland unit in the Taoiseach’s office, to oversee cross-border collaboration.There will also be commitments on examining medicinal cannabis use and a citizens’ assembly on the laws governing drug use in Ireland. The parties have also committed to an ending of direct provision within the lifetime of the next government. A new media division will also be established within govermment with responsibility for broadcast, print and online media. There will also be a review and reform of the defamation laws, as well as reform of the insurance sector.
It is understood that the majority of what has been signed off on so far relates to key issues for Fianna Fáil.
Many of the measures agreed centre on recognising children’s constitutional right to education.
This includes a focus on creating more multi-denominational schools, both primary and post-primary, and on reducing the pupil-teacher ratio.
There will also be a renewed focus on special education, and ensuring that every child receives the appropriate school place and supports.
It is understood that a commitment has been made to ending the misuse of “reduced timetables”.
An Oireachtas education committee heard last year that the practice disproportionately affected children with special needs and children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Other key elements in the programme for government include a focus on modern languages in primary schools, additional support for children living in homelessness, and the development of a digital education strategy.
It also focuses on an inclusive, age-appropriate relationship and sexual education curriculum. This will include a legislative change, if required.
The deal will commit to there being no increase in third-level fees.
It will also see the establishment of a united Ireland unit in the Taoiseach’s office, to oversee cross-border collaboration.
There will be commitments on examining medicinal cannabis use and a citizens’ assembly on the laws governing drug use in Ireland.
The parties have also committed to ending direct provision within the lifetime of the next government.
A new media division will be established within government, with responsibility for broadcast, print, and online media.
There will be a review and reform of defamation laws, as well as reform of the insurance sector.