- Lifestyle & Sports
- 15 Jun 20
Despite progressive elements in what has the appearance of a heavily Green-influenced programme, lack of attention to the arts will come as major disappointment to a sector that has been decimated during lockdown.
A number of the key issues on which Hot Press has extensively campaigned look set to be included in the new Programme for Government, currently being finalised between the three leaders of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party, Leo Varadkar, Michael Martin and Eamon Ryan.
These key issues, championed by Hot Press, include:
- There will be a Citizens Assembly to examine issues around the criminalisation of drugs.
- There will be broader acceptability for medicinal cannabis.
- The Government will make contraception free.
- The Direct Provision system for asylum seekers will be abolished.
This will include shortening the time for decisions to be made; better housing provision for families; and a shift away from the provision of housing for asylum seekers by the private sector, and resulting appearance at least of profiteering.
- The HAP (Housing Assistance Payment) system will be reduced, and replaced with low-cost housing.
- Security for rental tenants will be increased, while longer lease periods for rental properties will be introduced.
- There will also be increased protection for rental deposits.
- The moratorium on evictions brought in during the Covid-19 crisis will be extended.
In addition, longer-term policies on housing will clearly have to be formulated as the putative Government gets down to work, as the programme will say that the strategic housing development approach will not be extended beyond its current expiry date in 18 months time.
Disappointingly, however, in the documents leaked to media to date, there has been no mention of the arts – an area that has been devastated by the shutdown required to fight the spread of coronavirus. Given how central culture and tourism are to the Irish economy, it is – to say the least – a major omission.
However that may change when the final documents are released. We hope...
It has been widely noted that there is a major Green influence in the programme, although it will be subject to a rigorous internal debate in the party before it's put to a final vote.
There is also the added the complication of the upcoming leadership vote between Catherine Martin – who initially voted against entering government formation talks, before ultimately leading the party's negotiating team – and Eamon Ryan.
Martin has not yet commented publicly on the deal, though there is a growing feeling in FF and FG that it will get her blessing, which could prove decisive among the more sceptical elements of the Green membership.
Among the major wins for the Greens in the deal are:
- There will be more powers for local government.
- €1 million per day throughout the lifetime of the government will be spent on walking and cycling infrastructure.
- There will be grants for electric bikes.
- A new policy of "use it or lose it" for planning permissions for developers is planned.
– Another featured plan is a new "Environment Court" along the lines for the Commercial Court to speed up decisions and focus on cases involving significant environmental considerations.
Meanwhile, no less than five new referenda are planned, the last two of which are new and clearly Green-influenced.
The first three were recommended already by the Citizens’ Assembly and will proceed without further deliberation to Referendum.
-The right to housing
-The position of women in the home
-To extend the right to vote in presidential elections to all citizens including those living abroad.
-The right to water.
Elsewhere, the Green Party may be less thrilled about the introduction of a new fast-track process whereby planning decisions can be arrived at earlier.
Whether Eamon Ryan will be appointed Tánaiste, and the possible appointment of any Green ministers, remains to be seen. A Green environment minister, however, seems like a racing certainty.
Meanwhile, Leo Varadkar has confirmed that Micheál Martin will serve as Taoiseach first in a rotating arrangement – the first in the history of the state.
Varadkar also said on Monday that a date has been agreed for when they will rotate the position.
First, of course, the deal has to be voted on by the respective party memberships. To say the least, we are in for a fascinating two weeks.
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