Morning top 5: Work starts on new public sector pay deal; Varadkar to outline policies; Pope to host President Higgins

The top stories this morning on Newstalk.com

Work starts today on a new pay deal for around 300,000 State employees.

Some of the top union demands include the rolling back of pay cuts, the scrapping of the public service pension levy and the end of a demand for staff to work extra unpaid hours.

The current public sector pay bill comes to about €16bn every year.

The timeline originally allowed about a fortnight for the process, but a number of factors, including the election of a new Fine Gael leader, could see that extended.

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With two weeks to go in the battle to become Ireland's next Taoiseach, the main differences between the two contenders for the Fine Gael leadership will be made clear today.

This lunchtime, the Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar will launches his policy document entitled, 'Taking Ireland Forward.'

Housing Minster Simon Coveney outlined his own approach yesterday afternoon – after insisting he is determined to continue his campaign.

Minister Varadkar has opened up a strong early lead – with the support of a large majority of the parliamentary party.

However, Minister Coveney has been quick to point out that pledges aren't votes, adding “let me be clear, we are not done yet.”

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US President Donald Trump will move on to Jerusalem later today as he continues his first foreign tour since coming to office.

Yesterday he addressed the leaders of 50 Muslim-majority countries in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh - urging them to drive militants out.

Pressing the need to confront radical ideology and promote a peaceful vision of Islam to the world, the president said: "This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it.”

He also announced that a counter-terrorism centre is to be set up in the country to help stop extremism across the region.

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President Michael D Higgins will have an audience with the Pope in Rome today.

The two leaders are set to discuss issues of regional and global importance at their meeting later this morning.

President Higgins will also meet the Vatican's Secretary of State during the visit.

Yesterday he became the first sitting Irish President in history to visit the Venice Biennale, the world’s biggest and oldest international art exhibition.

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A new Child Protection and Welfare Strategy is being launched by Tusla today.

The Child and Family Agency says it wants to ensure the people it works with are part of the solutions to the problems they face.

The new strategy will also see staff engaging with families in a more consistent manner throughout the country - something the agency acknowledges has been lacking in the past.

Tusla CEO Fred McBride said it marks a fundamental change in the way the agency deals with child protection matters.