Enda Kenny is set to make history on today when he is re-elected Taoiseach, the first Fine Gael Taoiseach to do so. Dáil Eireann will meet today at 12pm to vote on the nomination following the successful negotiations with Fianna Fail and Independent TDs.
After first negotiating a Confidence and Supply Agreement in the ‘Trinity Talks’ with Fianna Fáil, a series of deals were then completed with a range of Independent TDs. Some Independent TDs including Dublin South West TD Katherine Zappone, Roscommon-Galway TD Denis Naughton and Dublin Rathdown TD Shane Ross are also expected to made ministers.
Committee chairs may also be up for grabs as part of the deal, though these will be distributed by D’hondt among the party groupings. Including the new Budgetary Committee, but excluding the Housing and Homelessness and the Standing Order 112 Committees there will be in the region of 16 Committee chairs. These could be distributed as follows (Figures based on current party strength using a D’hondt Calculator) :
- Fine Gael: 6
- Fianna Fáil: 5
- Sinn Fein: 3
- Independents: 2
The Agreement reached entitled “Partnership Government” runs to 160 pages. There are two areas that I am most interested in and that is Mental Health and Political and Constitutional Reform.
The new Government like the last three, are committed to meeting the recommendations in “A Vision for Change” (PDF) which was published in 2006. Hopefully we will get there this time.
It also commits to using to education system to create awareness around Mental Health and to help combat stigma. This will also include teachers doing the ASIST and safeTALK courses.
There is also a commitment to implementing in full the “Connecting For Life – Ireland’s National Strategy to Reduce Suicide 2015-2020” (PDF)
These are all good things and the Agreement does go into greater detail on supports for those with mental health issues in terms of benefits and employment as well as expanding 24/7 service support and liaison teams in Primary and Emergency Care, the closing of the Central Mental Hospital and many others. There is also a proposal to expand the counselling service at primary care level for those on low incomes.
If these ideas are implemented, there will be a massive improvement in Mental Health provision and supports in Ireland.
Political and Constitutional Reform
There are to be some big changes to how the Dáil is run under the new Government. As the Government won’t have a majority in the House, the Dáil itself will be more powerful against the executive. We will see changes on Committee chairs (as outlined above), membership of committees, sitting times, allocation of speaking time, changes to the use of guillotines and grouping of votes.
The Agreement acknowledges that Seanad Reform is long overdue and is committed to implementing the Manning Report on Seanad Reform (PDF).
There will be large changes to Budgetary Process which will include the setting up of an independent Budget and Finance Office.
There will be a new Parliamentary Investigation Unit to enhance and strengthen Parliamentary Investigations as well as a review of the powers of the Parliamentary Inquiries after the recommendations of the Banking Inquiry.
There will be reform to Judicial and state body appointments.
An Electoral Commission shall be established. This will take over the roles of SIPO and Registrar of Political Parties, as well as oversee the Referendum Commission. (This is something I have written to an Oireachtas Committee on: see document (Word Doc))
Referendums will be held on Blasphemy, the “womens life within in the home”, Ireland’s participation in the Universal Patent Court, and the constitutional status of the office of the Ceann Comhairle.
A citizens assembly will also be convened to discuss how we can best respond to the challenge of an ageing population, the eight amendment and the holding of referendums.
At a local government level there is proposals to look at directly elected mayors for Irish Cities, devolution of more powers, reduce the size of electoral areas and the establishment of town and borough councils following local plebiscites.
These are all important changes to the political system in Ireland and some are long overdue. With the balance of power changed in both the Dáil and the Seanad it will be an interesting challenge to pass legislation and these reforms could see a lot of private members bills become legislation.
For however long this government last, it could change how politics is done in this county for a long time.
Some of the other parts of the deal include
- Conduct a “root and branch” review of the planning system and the nationwide building standards;
- Create 200,000 jobs by 2020 including 135,000 outside Dublin
- Introduce new legislation in the areas of surrogacy and human reproduction;
- Increase funding for homecare packages and home help every year
- Increase tax credits from €550 to €1,650 for the self-employed by 2018 and introduce a PRSI scheme for the self-employed
- Reduce Capital Gains Tax for new start-ups to 10 per cent
- New laws relating to family consent and an opt-out register for organ donations will be brought in by the end of 2017
- Reduce waiting times for emergency departments to a maximum of six hours
- Introduce new legislation governing school admission by the start of the 2017 school year
- Fast-track legislation allowing for tagging of sex offenders and laws to allow for strict bail terms for repeat offenders
- Invest €3.6 billion to allow a number of major public transport projects to go ahead