Programme for Government 2020
In what has already been unprecedented times for the country in our battle to suppress Covid-19, I write to you as our beloved party stands once again on the precipice of history. After weeks of negotiations, a Programme for Government between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party has been agreed.
As a member of the negotiation team, I can reassure you that our core principles on housing, agriculture, health, childcare, education, Irish unity, and the economy are all included in the 126-page programme. When compared to our general election manifesto, I think you’ll find there’s a substantial overlap. An endorsement of this programme will see our Leader Micheál Martin elected Taoiseach in the coming weeks and Fianna Fáil will, with your support, return to the government benches and get this country back on track.
Whether it’s the expansion of Local Link services for the county, the introduction of Bus Connects in Galway, or the release of the long-promised report on the future of the Western Rail Corridor, you will see that this programme will bring much-needed investment to the county. I’ve pushed for the development of new radiation oncology facilities in Galway, as well as the reestablishment of the Galway City Community Based Alcohol Treatment Service. There will also be further investment in greenways, walkways and waterways which will enhance our tourism sector, including funding for the Galway-Dublin Greenway.
As you know, one of the key issues during the general election was the pension age, which Fianna Fáil fought hard on in negotiations and has ensured it will not be increased next year. Those who stop working at 65 will also now be entitled to an ‘Early Retirement Pension’ without the need to sign on, as is the norm at present. A Commission on Pensions will also be established to ensure a sustainable and fair system can be introduced.
Fianna Fáil’s ability to provide housing goes back generations and once again we’ve ensured it is a focal point of this new programme with a commitment to build 35,000 homes per year by 2025, as well as increasing the public and social housing stock by over 50,000. Local authorities will receive additional capital to provide serviced sites at cost in towns and villages across the country, which means those looking to build their own home will be able to do so at a lower price. This is in addition to the introduction of a State-backed affordable home purchase scheme, which will help thousands get their foot on the property ladder.
I know some will be fearful of the much-touted ‘green’ policies being bad for rural Ireland, but I firmly believe that the proposals will actually be a boost. Farmers are to the forefront of environmentalism, interacting with the land every day. Fianna Fáil has ensured that farmers are financially rewarded for their environmentally friendly practices, many of which are already in place and we have secured a 1.7 billion euro reps package for the custodians of our land. We’ve also secured a fairer system for grants with the introduction of an Independent Agriculture Appeals Review meaning there will be greater transparency and fairness for farmers. Beef farmers too will be happy to see the party’s commitment to a Food Ombudsman being established to ensure fair pricing and an end to anti-competitive practices. Long promised but finally delivered.
The new government cannot be as Dublin focused as the last and no longer will the urban-rural divide be allowed deepen. Fianna Fáil has pushed for a more balanced approach to regional development in the years ahead, ensuring towns and villages across Galway see increased investment. As the country reboots post-Covid, it’s vital that rural Ireland receives its fair share. SMEs need sufficient financial support so they can get back on their feet and continue to grow, bolstering the local economy in the process.
The ‘Town Centre First’ policy will regenerate our town centres by utilising existing buildings and unused lands for new developments, in the towns of Portumna, Loughrea, Gort, Kinvara, Athenry, Tuam and Headford, as well as promoting residential occupancy in our rural towns and villages. It’s not a secret that Galway is a broadband blackspot, which is why another key commitment is to accelerate the roll-out of the National Broadband Plan. This will strengthen people’s ability to work from home, provide businesses with more stability to operate and expand and allow schools greater connectivity for students.
Over the past 100 years, this country has faced many battles but has always persevered. As a country now emerging from the shadow of Covid-19, we’re at an important crossroads. The road ahead will at times be rocky but it’s a journey we must take and the need for a strong and stable government is clear to all. Although speaking in very different circumstances, as the country faced a seemingly insurmountable challenge, Éamon de Valera said, ‘we cannot afford idleness, waste or inefficiency’. This sentiment very much feels applicable in this case too and I hope I can count on your vote to approve this Programme for Government, Our Shared Future.