Irish Programme for Government – A Cicero/AMO overview

The much awaited Irish Programme for Government (PFG) document has now been agreed by the negotiating teams.

Four months after the general election, a document has now been signed by Micheál Martin, Leader of Fianna Fáil, Leo Varadkar, Leader of Fine Gael and Eamon Ryan, Leader of the Green Party.

The document will then be discussed at the respective parliamentary party meetings today at which point it is expected to receive full agreement. Once it is approved by the parliamentary parties it will be made available to all the party members. With a timeframe of approximately seven days, there will be a lot of work to do to ensure the membership bases, Fianna Fáil’s and Fine Gael’s in particular, do not think rural Ireland was excessively compromised in the aim to achieve the 7% carbon reduction.

Undoubtedly, Sinn Féin will be thoroughly critiquing the document and will be vocal on many aspects over the coming week. Depending on the strength of their arguments, this could sway members that are concerned that a. this is not what was voted for or b. partnership with the Greens is bad for rural Ireland. The Green Party will have its own battle to convince two-thirds of its membership to vote in favour of the deal.

From an industry point of view, the SME sector and those looking for insurance reform will undoubtedly be happy with an economic business reboot plan and the introduction of  a cabinet committee to deal with the insurance issue.  On the other hand, car dealerships and those in the transport industry might not be too pleased with a commitment to introduce legislation that will make it illegal to sell new or imported second-hand petrol or diesel cars by 2030.

Cicero/AMO has summarised a list below of other key commitments within sectors of focus for our clients that we understand will form the Programme for Government.

These include:

  • Financial services & taxation
  • Business & the economy
  • Housing
  • Climate
  • Communications & digital policy
  • Transportation & infrastructure

We anticipate the remaining process of government formation will follow the timeline set below. In the meantime, please get in touch if you would like further information in relation to specific measures within the Programme for Government.

  • PFG approved to parliamentary parties and sent to memberships – w/c 15th June
  • Votes are cast and returned to each party HQ – w/c 22nd June
  • Election of new Taoiseach and the selection of the next cabinet – w/c 22nd/29th June

*The signed Programme for Government document is due to be published later today.

Financial Services & Taxation

Budgetary

  • A medium-term roadmap detailing how Ireland will reduce the deficit and return to a broadly balanced budget will be announced at Budget 2021.
  • Proposed taxation measures to close the deficit and fund public services will focus on carbon tax, sugar tax, plastics etc.

Corporation Tax

  • There is a commitment to ensure that the 12.5% Corporation Tax rate is sustainable by supporting the OECD process on global tax reform. They have committed to engaging in international tax reform; however, it states they will critically analysing proposals that may not be in Ireland’s long term interests.
  • There is a commitment to continue to implement the Roadmap on Corporation Tax Reform.
  • In relation to the digital economy, it states “we recognise that taxation policy needs to reflect a changing digital economy. This work is best done through the OECD. In the context of Budget 2021, we will update our future projections on Corporation Tax revenues”

Small Business Taxes

  • Commitment to reviewing capital gains tax rates in each Budget over the next five-years, in particular with the objective of supporting innovation driven enterprises that will help Ireland transition to a low carbon economy.
  • Government will incentive the take-up of the R&D Tax Credit by small domestic companies by building on recent changes and examine issues with respect to the preapproval procedures and reduced record-keeping requirements.

The Irish Banking Sector

  • Commitment has been made to support the ECB and CBI’s actions to ensure stability in the banking sector.
  • Commitment has been given to encourage competition in banking sector and to develop the Fintech sector as a source of employment and competition.
  • Commitment to introducing the Senior Executive Accountability Regime to deliver heightened accountability with the banking system.
  • Commitment to working with the banking industry and non-bank lenders to support customers during and after the Covid-19 crisis.
  • Commitment to progressing the implementation of the Ireland for Finance Strategy which was published by Minister D’Arcy last year.
  • Will prioritise Green Finance strategic actions that are developed in line with climate justice targets and Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Enact the Investment Partnership legislation in the Oireachtas.

Commission on Welfare and Taxation

  • A Commission on Welfare and Taxation will be established to independently consider how best the tax system can support economic activity and promote increased employment and prosperity while ensuring that there are sufficient resources available to meet the costs of the public services and supports in the medium and longer term.
  • The Commission will have particular regard to the impact of the COVID-19 Emergency, as well as long-term developments such as aging demographics, the move to a low-carbon economy and the rise of digital disruption and automation.

The Commission will review all existing tax measures and expenditures and have regard to the taxation practices in other similar sized open economies in the OECD.

Business & the Economy

Overview

  • A series of immediate actions to support the economy to return to capacity will be published through a ‘July Stimulus’ package. The main tool of that will be the Recovery Fund.
  • Then, in conjunction with Budget 2021, the Government will bring forward a National Economic Plan to set out a long-term approach to restore employment.

Additional priorities include;

  • To set out a pathway for the future implementation of the Temporary Wage Subsidy.
  • To set out the future distribution of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment based on the principles of fairness and equity.
  • To establish sectoral taskforces, comprising of Government, independent experts and stakeholders and chaired by line ministers, to focus on the specific needs of sectors and bring forward plans in the context of the National Economic Plan.
  • To convene a SME and State Bodies Group to be chaired jointly by the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Business to coordinate the Government’s ongoing response to COVID-19 for SMEs.
  • To commence a high-level review of the Irish economy led by the Department of the Taoiseach to identify the sectors, which have the greatest opportunity to grow and sustain quality employment in light of the continuing public health crisis, resulting geo-political trends, as well as the long-term challenges of the climate crisis, technological disruption and future public health challenges.
  • To enact legislation for the introduction of a new €2 billion Credit Guarantee Scheme, SURE scheme, and the warehousing of tax liabilities.
  • To review the Business Restart Grant and consider further grant supports for SMEs. 
  • To scale up MicroFinance Ireland so that it can support greater numbers of small businesses and start-ups in accessing finance. Review how we can utilise and leverage European Investment Bank funding and other opportunities for external funding to the maximum extent possible to support our recovery and transition to a low carbon future.
  • To review the operation of the Pandemic Stabilisation Tool and whether changes are needed to enhance the role of the Irish Strategic Investment Fund.
  • To set out how commercial rates will be treated for the remainder of 2020.
  • To create a code of conduct between landlords and tenants for commercial rents.
  • To take further sector specific measures where required. We will consider additional measures that may be needed to support the hospitality, retail, entertainment, arts and leisure sectors.

Insurance Reform

  • Establish a cabinet sub-committee to deal urgently with insurance reform.
  • Support the Central Bank’s direction on compensating businesses with disruption cover for infectious diseases.
  • Recognising the work of the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee under the Judicial Council to provide guidance on personal injury claims.
  • Enhancing and reforming the role of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board.
  • Regulating claims management companies and claims harvesters.
  • Considering changes to the Occupiers Liability Act and the Civil Liability Act (duty of care) to strengthen waivers and notices to increase protections for consumers, businesses, sporting clubs and community groups.
  • Strengthening the Solicitors (Advertising) Regulations of 2002.
  • Considering the need for a constitutional amendment to enable the Oireachtas to set down guidelines on award levels.
  • Seeking to increase coordination and cooperation between An Garda Síochána and the insurance industry. We will seek to expand the Garda Economic Crime Bureau which deals with fraud. Under new structures, it will train and support Gardaí in every division to ensure expertise and skill is diffused across the State.
  • Increasing the penalties for fraudulent claims.
  • Reviewing the penalties for fraudulent claims.
  • Placing perjury on a statutory footing, making the offence easier to prosecute. We will broaden the scope of the Perjury and Related Offences Bill, ensuring that the maximum penalty on indictment should be harmonised with the equivalent maximum penalties for largely similar offences in the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004.
  • Ensuring that fraudulent claims are forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
  • Publishing insurance fraud data.
  • Exploring the feasibility of obliging fraudulent claimants to pay the legal expenses for defendants.
  • Giving the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) effective enforcement powers to punish and deter anti-competitive conduct.
  • Requesting the industry and stakeholders to give an assessment of the expected impact on premium levels of the key reforms being fully introduced.
  • Expanding, with urgency, the National Claims Information Database to employer liability and public liability to track the level of claims.
  • Establishing a databank within the Central Bank for new entrants.
  • Prioritising the establishment of a fully functioning European-wide single insurance market.
  • Working to remove dual pricing from the market.
  • Creating an office within Government tasked with encouraging greater competition in the Irish insurance market.

Housing & Infrastructure

Homelessness

  • Continue to expand the Housing First approach with a focus on the construction and acquisition of one-bed homes and the relevant supporting services
  • Move away from dormitory style accommodation on a long-term basis and aim to provide suitable tenancies.
  • Develop a National Youth Homelessness Strategy.
  • Continue the Housing Agency’s Acquisition Fund to purchase vacant stock from financial institutions.
  • Increase funding for Drug Free Hostels.
  • Continue to fund the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Service, Abhaile.

Affordable Home Ownership

  • Increase the supply of new homes to reach 35,000 per annum during the lifetime of the Government.
  • Within three months, the Minister of Housing will bring forward a target for the delivery of affordable homes over the lifetime of the government to be available for qualifying purchasers. Recognising the ambition of the Government in this area, these homes could be delivered through a number of channels including development by non-profit developers on State and local authority lands, direct procurement by approved housing bodies or co-housing bodies on State lands local authorities (serviced sites fund), introducing affordable homes requirements to Part V, and the Land Development Agency, and will be sold either by non-profit affordable developers through the State-backed Affordable Purchase Scheme. The overriding objective will be to invest State lands and finances in construction and supply chains that deliver genuinely affordable homes.
  • Progress a State-backed affordable home purchase scheme to promote home ownership.
  • Extend the Serviced Sites Fund.
  • Provide seed capital to local authorities to provide serviced sites at cost in towns and villages to allow individuals and families build homes. 
  • Retain and expand the Help to Buy scheme for new properties and self-build.
  • Expand the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan.
  • Explore expanding Part V to encompass affordable purchase and cost rental units.
  • Maintain the Mortgage to Rent scheme and ensure that it is helping that those need it.

Public & Social Housing

  • Increase the social housing stock by over 50,000 over the next five-years, the majority of which are to be built by local authorities, approved Housing Bodies and state agencies.
  • Ensure an appropriate mix of housing design  types is provided, including universally designed units, accommodation for older people and people with disabilities.
  • Put in place the appropriate controls to allow Local Authority discretionary funding to increase from €2m to €6m for social housing projects.
  • Expand the role of Vacant Homes Officers in local authorities and support local authorities to bring vacant stock into productive use.
  • Work on a package of reforms with Approved Housing Bodies to ensure they can access finance and move off balance sheet.
  • Ensure that procurement policy for social housing has strong social clauses, is in line with the new Green Public Procurement policy and delivers strong value-for-money protections for public funds.
  • Local authority direct build housing projects, specific timelines and all gateway approval processes will be transparent and open to public oversight.

Planning and Reform

  • Introduce a ‘use it or lose it’ condition for all planning applications of ten units or more.
  • Review and reform the judicial review process so that such reforms come into effect upon the establishment of the Environmental and Planning Law Court, while always adhering to our EU law obligations under the Aarhus Convention.
  • Examine the creation of an Independent Building Standards Regulator as oversight for building control nationwide and to act as custodian of the Building Control Management System, including the re-establishment of the Building Regulatory Advisory Body.
  • Introduce a new scheme to expand and build on the Living Cities initiative to encourage infill development.
  • Review how community gain can be captured through a review of the development levy process, re-zoning system and planning permission conditions.
  • Ensure that the Planning Regulator is adequately resourced and proactively engages with all stakeholders in the planning system, including informing and assisting the general public in inputting into local and regional development plans.
  • Ensure construction materials and standards adhere to UN Sustainable Development Goals, EU Green Deal objectives and our emissions targets.
  • In line with the policy statement ‘Housing Options for Our Ageing Population’, work to ensure our ageing population has a range of options for living independently and alternatives to long-term residential care to support ageing in place.
  • To avoid over-concentration of particular housing types in areas, require local authorities to complete Housing Need and Demand Assessments to inform delivery of an appropriate mix of housing typologies to cater for the needs of disparate household types and sizes.
  • Reform and consolidate compulsory purchase order laws.
  • Enhance skills and capacity in the construction sector by increasing training places for apprentices, reviewing the funding model and expanding shared apprenticeships initiatives.
  • Strengthen enforcement of the Vacant Site Levy and the keep the Act under review.
  • Work to enhance productivity in the construction sector, including utilising modern methods of construction. This work will be guided by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
  • Continue to ensure Home Building Finance Ireland is funding SME builders, and helping to bring down the cost of construction finance.
  • Not extend Strategic Housing Developments past its legislative expiry in eighteen months’ time.
  • Examine ways to ensure unused or underused building stock in cities and other urban centres can be made available for upgraded and sustainable housing and further develop ‘Live Above the Shop’ measures.

Climate & Energy

Climate Measures

  • Set a target to decarbonise the economy by 2050 at the latest.
  • Make the adoption of five-year carbon budgets, setting maximum emissions by sector, a legal requirement.
  • Establish the Climate Action Council on an independent statutory footing and ensure greater gender balance and increased scientific expertise in its membership.
  • Ban the sale of new and the importation of second-hand petrol and diesel cars from 2030.
  • Update the Climate Action Plan annually and report progress quarterly.
  • Maintain the existing Climate Action Delivery Board model.
  • Propose that the Oireachtas establishes a standing Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action, with powers similar to the Public Accounts Committee.
  • Ensure that the Department of Climate Action has the capacity and expertise to manage the transition in energy efficiency and renewable energy and to carry out its expanded function in relation to carbon budgets.
  • Review on an on-going basis the structure and operations of state agencies who will be responsible for delivery of increased targets under this plan.
  • Work with the European Commission to advance a stronger National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) for 2030 consistent with the ambition of this programme.
  • Recognise that Environmental NGOs play a key role in climate action policy.  
  • Respond to the OECD review of the Environmental Protection Agency and ensure that our legislative framework for licensing pollution is fit for purpose.

Energy

  • Hold the first Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) auction by the end of 2020, with auctions held each year thereafter, including the first RESS auction for offshore wind in 2021.
  • Give cross-government priority to the drafting of the Marine Planning and Development Bill so that it is published as soon as possible and enacted within nine months.
  • Produce a whole-of-government plan setting out how we will deliver at least 70% renewable electricity by 2030 and how we will develop the necessary skills base, supply chains, legislation and infrastructure to enable that. This new plan will make recommendations for how the deployment of renewable electricity can be speeded up, for example the provision and permissioning of grid connections.
  • Complete the Celtic Interconnector to connect Ireland’s electricity grid to France.
  • Commence planning for future inter-connection with our neighbours.
  • Finalise and publish the Wind Energy Guidelines having regard to the public consultation which has just taken place.
  • Develop a solar energy strategy for rooftop and ground based photovoltaics to ensure that a greater share of our electricity needs are met through solar power.
  • Continue Eirgrid’s programme “Delivering a Secure, Sustainable Electricity System” (DS3).
  • Ensure that the energy efficiency potential of smart meters starts to be deployed in 2021 and that all mechanical electricity meters are replaced by 2024.
  • Strengthen the policy framework to incentivise electricity storage and interconnection.
  • Support the clustering of regional and sectoral centres of excellence in the development of low carbon technologies.

Communications & Digital

Online Safety

The new Government will enact the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill and establish an Online Safety Commissioner.

The Online Safety Commissioner will:

  • Require online platforms to set out the steps they will take keep their users safe online and to  build safety into the design of their platforms.
  • Ensure new Online Safety Codes can combat cyber bullying material and material promoting eating disorders, self-harm and suicide.
  • Provide a mechanism for further categories of harmful content to be added following consultation with the Oireachtas.
  • Require that services operate effective complaints procedures.
  • Ensure that advertising, sponsorship and product placement are not harmful and that they uphold minimum standards.
  • Require platforms to have take down measures which are timely and effective.
  • Promote positive digital citizenship among children and young people, in conjunction with Webwise and other educational partners, schools, as well as the Ombudsman for Children.
  • Develop a research programme led by internationally recognised experts to review the existing and developing literature in relation to (a) the consequences, benefits and potential harms to society and children specifically of digital activity and (b) the concept of duty of care and the public interest in the design of online platforms.

National Digital Strategy

A new National Digital Strategy will be developed that will:

  • Utilise the increased level of national connectivity that is being delivered by the National Broadband Plan, particularly in rural Ireland.
  • Drive digital transformation in the public service, with greater integration of digital services across the public service.
  • Further develop Ireland’s leadership in new digital technologies including cloud computing, data analytics, blockchain, Internet of Things, and Artificial Intelligence.
  • Direct the Office of Government Procurement to support the adoption of new technologies through the development of new public service frameworks. 
  • Explore how Ireland can be at the forefront of protecting citizens’ rights with respect to facial recognition technology, access to encryption tools and net neutrality.

Cyber Security

  • Build the capacity of the National Centre for Cyber Security (NCCS) to protect the public and private sectors against cyber-crime on foot of the capacity review currently underway.
  • Expand the NCCS’s ability to monitor and respond to cyber security incidents and developing threats in the State.
  • Implement the National Cyber Security Strategy, recognising the potential and important role of the Defence Forces.
  • Increase digital literacy among citizens and businesses to better enable the identification of threats online. Develop cyber security capacity in Ireland to better protect citizens, companies, and institutions.

Transport Infrastructure

Key points 

  • The Government is committing to a 2:1 ratio of expenditure between new public transport infrastructure and new roads over its lifetime.
  • They will continue the investment programme in public transport to improve our bus, light rail, commuter and inter-city rail network across our country.
  • They will develop and implement the existing strategies for our cities such as the Greater Dublin Area Transport Strategy, the Galway Transport Strategy, the draft Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy, as well as strategies being developed for Waterford and Limerick, and other projects progressing through planning.
  • The Government will prioritise plans for the delivery of Metrolink, LUAS and other light rail expansion, DART expansion and interconnector and Bus Connects. 

Public Transport

  • Task the National Transport Authority (NTA) to produce a Park and Ride Implementation Plan for each of the five cities to help reduce congestion and journey times. These will integrate car parking facilities with public transport and cycling networks and will include the provision of secure lockers for bicycles.
  • Develop and implement a Sustainable Rural Mobility Plan. This will introduce a public transport service standard under which all settlements over a certain size in terms of population, combined with employment or education places, will have a service connecting them to the national public transport system. Local Link will play a key role in this development. This service standard will be informed by the Connected Ireland research piece being carried out by the NTA.
  • Prioritise public transport projects that enhance regional and rural connectivity, in line with the National Planning Framework, for additional funding in the lifetime of an extended National Development Plan. 
  • Establish a Working Group to utilise the modelling capacity of the NTA and commuter and travel data held by the CIE Group of Companies, the Central Statistics Office, NTA and other stakeholders to identify existing and potential demand for public transport, and work to match demand with available services and new services where appropriate.
  • Ensure a national integrated public transport system with an integrated timetable, one tag-on ticketing system, and coordination between bus and rail timetables between all operators.
  • Establish a National Public Transport Forum involving all stakeholders and commence Section 17 of the Dublin Transport Authority Act to establish the Dublin Transport Advisory Council.
  • Explore potential synergies between different forms of transport and transport-related services funded by the State via different Departments and agencies.
  • Accelerate sustainable transport plans for schools. We will complete the review of the School Transport Scheme to seek better outcomes and reduce car journeys. The School Transport Scheme should work in liaison with the Safe Routes to Schools Programme.

Rail

  • Continue to fund safety works and capital improvements to the rail network. We will expand the Irish Rail fleet, progress the electrification of rail services to decrease journey times and emissions.
  • Commission an economic evaluation of higher speed rail links between our main cities.
  • Improve cycling and storage facilities at stations and on trains, where possible.
  • Improve suburban and commuter rail across the country.
  • Consider the report on the future of the Western Rail Corridor and take appropriate action.
  • Ringfence funding to ensure swift train platform lift repair and upgrade to ensure accessibility

Decarbonisation of Road Transport

  • Use a range of policy approaches to incentivise use of electric vehicles (EVs), and encourage a shift away from petrol/diesel vehicles.
  • Legislate to ban the registration of new fossil-fuelled cars and light vehicles from 2030 onwards and phase out diesel and petrol cars from Irish cities from 2030
  • Review the current motor taxation regime to ensure it adequately captures the harm caused by NOx (nitrogen oxide) and SOx (sulphur oxide) emissions. This will only apply to newly registered vehicles.
  • Publish an EV strategy to ensure charging infrastructure stays ahead of demand and provide planning guidance to local authorities.
  • Publish a public procurement framework for EVs. By at least 2025, we will only allow public sector bodies to purchase low- or no-emissions cars and light goods vehicles.
  • Require that all new urban buses be electric hybrid or electric.
  • Legislate for e-scooters and e-bikes.
  • Publish and implement a 10-year strategy for the haulage sector, focused on improving efficiencies, standards, and helping the sector move to a low-carbon future.

Ports

  • Work with ports and airports to safeguard supply chains for businesses and access for tourists as the economy is opened on a phased basis.
  • Review potential to expand passenger and cargo capability at all of our ports, prioritising rail connections and interchange.
  • Work to ensure that ferry companies provide access for foot passengers without cars.

Aviation

  • Deliver the capital programmes required to support services and ensure safety at our State and regional airports.
  • Support EU and international action to reduce aviation emissions in line with the aims of the Paris Agreement and the UNFCCC.

Brexit

  • Continue to advocate for the UK landbridge

Get in Touch

Aideen Ginnell

Ireland Director

Aisling Cusack

Account Manager