Full programme for government published: 4 things to know

Cabinet signed off on document at its first meeting today

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Taoiseach Enda Kenny's new cabinet | File photo: MerrionStreet.ie

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has published the full programme for government, over two months since the general election. 

In 155 pages, the agreement sets out a vision for what is likely to be a shaky term in office for the Fine Gael-led minority government.

The incoming administration has committed to prioritising measures in areas such as housing and health, while also focusing on increasing employment across the country.

Under the terms of the programme, public spending will be €6.75 billion higher by 2021, compared to 2016. So where's the money going? We look at promises in four of the most major chapters of the document. 

Housing

Proposals to deal with the critical shortfall in the supply of private and social accommodation take up a significant portion of the agreement. An action plan for housing will be published in the first 100 days of office as part of the deal.

The new government says it will also “accelerate the delivery” of the €3.8 billion social housing strategy announced in 2014. Local authorities will now deliver new housing in two phases, with 18,000 extra housing units being provided by the end of 2017 and 17,000 additional units set to be ready for the end of 2020.

The government hopes to tackle difficulties faced by first-time home buyers by developing a new “help to buy” scheme to provide “adequate, affordable” mortgage finance.

The document also commits the Fine Gael-led administration to ending the use of unsuitable long-term emergency accommodation, such as hotels and B&Bs, for homeless families. This will be achieved, in part, by delivering 500 rapid-delivery housing units.

Health

In health, there is a promise to increase the number of GP training places from 100 to 259 annually over the next five years. There will be reductions in the cost to the public of the drug payment scheme too, and to the prescription charges for medical card holders.

There is also a commitment to increase funding for home care packages and home help support each year.

Around 10,000 children who are in receipt of the domiciliary care allowance will be able to get a medical card, while every child aged 12 and under will be entitled to a comprehensive preventative dental health programme.

The government says it will also reduce the percentage of patients waiting longer than six hours in emergency departments from 32% currently to less than 7% by 2021.

In mental health, the Fine Gael-led minority coalition will focus on improving referral procedures for patients and for dealing with crisis responses.

The agreement says the government will "extend counselling services in primary care to people on low income" and "offer free counselling and psychological services for families who need it”.

It will also “seek to introduce flexibility and support in the social welfare system” for people with mental health difficulties by “ensuring a seamless return of their entitlements” should a particular employment opportunity prove unsuitable.

Crime

The big promise in the anti-crime section of the deal is that garda numbers will be increased to 15,000 - an ambitious aim.

The government says it will free gardaí up from court attendances and desk work by expanding civilianisation efforts. There is commitment too to doubling the garda reserve to support local patrols and crime reduction initiatives.

To tackle gangland crime, a new dedicated armed support unit will be prioritised for the Dublin area, operating in addition to the emergency response unit and other garda units.

Legislation providing for stricter bail terms for repeat serious offenders - which will strengthen garda powers to deal with breaches of bail - will be fast tracked into the Oireachtas.

A pilot scheme will also reopen six garda stations over the coming months to “determine possible positive impacts that such openings will have on criminal activity”. 

Rural development

Some 135,000 extra jobs have been promised for regions outside of Dublin over the next four years. There is also a commitment to increasing the “local and regional roads budget by circa 50% in the years ahead as the national finances are repaired”.

The government will seek Oireachtas support for a new town and village renewal scheme to support the revitalisation of towns and villages.

The document outlines a number of measures to bridge the digital divide between rural and urban areas.

There is a promise to provide broadband to “every household and business in the country” by 2021, if not sooner. 

The rollout of infrastructure will begin immediately after a contract is awarded, which is targeted for June 2017. This will see 85% of premises in Ireland getting access to high speed broadband within two years, with 100% access “as soon as possible” for up to five years, according to the programme for government. 

The new administration will also set up a taskforce to examine mobile phone coverage within 100 days of taking office.

Plans to revitalise the post office network and the role of local credit unions are other major components of its rural development strategy.

Additional reporting by Odran Flynn. The programme for government can be read in full here.

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