The Taoiseach and Fine Gael Party Leader, Leo Varadkar, joined Minister for Education Richard Bruton today to publish Building a Republic of Opportunity, a long-term strategy for families, a strong economy and balanced development across Ireland.
Building a Republic of Opportunity sets out Fine Gael’s vision for Ireland for the next decade. It focuses – among other areas – on families, communities, making work pay, ageing with security, Northern Ireland, the environment, Irish culture and heritage and a balanced and sustainable economy. It is published as a working document and Fine Gael members, civic society and the public at large are now asked to share their views and propose amendments.
The plan covers a huge range of areas but some of the key proposals in the plan include:
- shared, paid parental leave in the first year of the child’s life;
- a Commission on the Status of Women in Ireland to review the effectiveness of existing measures to tackle gender inequality;
- reforming the PRSI system to improve supports throughout people’s lives, including better sick leave entitlements, paid paternal leave, enhanced medical cards and other treatments, unemployment benefits to be linked to level of contribution;
- better quality jobs as we approach full employment, with an emphasis on lifelong learning and training.
The plan has been developed by Minister Bruton and a committee of elected representatives. Work started at the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party Think-In last September. This weekend it’s being opened to the entire Party membership for feedback and will form the basis of the Conference workshops on Saturday. There will also be town hall meetings, social media engagement, a call for submissions and engagement with NGOs. Their feedback will be included in the final document at the next Fine Gael Ard Fheis for approval and endorsement.
Key actions in Building a Republic of Opportunity include:
- Parenthood and early childhood: Shared, paid parental leave in the first year of the child’s life; afterschool services in schools and community hubs;
- A Real Social Insurance System: USC to be merged with PRSI to improve supports throughout people’s lives, including better sick leave entitlements, paid paternal leave, enhanced medical card and other treatments;
- Making Life Easier for Families: remove bureaucratic obstacles to services following an audit of every agency and department; more information and better accountability in schools;
- Gender Equality. Establish a Commission on the Status of Women in Ireland to review the effectiveness of existing measures to tackle gender inequality. In sports policy we are proposing to move to a situation where all Exchequer funding for sport is allocated equally for male and female sporting activities;
- Regional Development: 50% of population growth to be outside of five main cities; bring broadband to every premises; regional EI and IDA jobs targets; strong emphasis on supporting agri-food and tourism sectors, including greater market diversification;
- Equipping People with more Skills: Making apprenticeship and traineeship a career option for 20% of school leavers; Increase workplace placement within higher education courses by 50%
- Supporting Enterprise: tax credit equality for the self-employed; support entrepreneurs by increasing relief from capital gains tax; a National Productivity Policy to drive future jobs growth across the economy;
- Tackling disadvantage: close the performance gap between DEIS and non-DEIS schools; increase by 50% the number from disadvantaged backgrounds going to third level;
- Housing: build 25,000 houses per year with affordable options for first-time buyers; social and voluntary housing to make up 25% of housebuilding; every worker should be able to aspire towards home ownership.
- A Modern Health Service: Based on the all-party Slaintecare report, we will implement a ten-year plan to modernise and streamline our health service;
- Sport, Language, Culture and Heritage: Double investment in this area; introduce PE as an examinable leaving certificate subject; benchmark our Olympic and Paralympics performance against leading peer nations like New Zealand and Denmark, and back up with investment;
- Protecting the Planet: Fulfil Paris Climate Agreement commitments; make Ireland a hub for R&D in the aviation CO2 emission mitigation sector by supporting the development of technologies to reduce aircraft fuel emissions; full electrification of the commuter and intercity rail network within 20 years; all buses procured by companies supported by the PSO should all be LNG or electric vehicles;
- Policing/justice: Develop a world class, 21st century policing service following the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing; strengthen parole services; increase focus on restorative justice to cut the rate of recidivism; introduce legislative reforms to ensure that contempt of court laws are modernised to take account of the new challenges in the social media age; modernise court processes to ensure that trials can proceed with greater efficiency.
- Shaping our place in the world: build new alliances across the EU with member states with whom we share common goals and interests, including continued access to new and innovative drugs at a good value for the taxpayer; double our global footprint;
- Ageing with Security, Opportunity and Dignity: homecare services to be developed and put on a statutory footing; new laws to support carers with sick days where they are caring for the seriously ill;
An Taoiseach and Fine Gael Party Leader Leo Varadkar TD said: “This is a new departure in Irish politics. Normally the only time a political party publishes its policy platform is in the middle of an election campaign, when it is far too late for a proper debate on those ideas. That type of old-fashioned politics doesn’t work. We in Fine Gael are confident in our ideas, and because of that we are prepared to put them out there and debate them, and where an idea can be improved, we will take that feedback on board.”
Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton TD said: “By Building a Republic of Opportunity we will ensure that every person, every family and every community can fulfil their potential. The role of government is not to run peoples’ lives or to provide everything for free. It is to provide opportunity. It is to help when they stumble by providing a second chance. It is to empower people and to respond to diversity of need with choice and opportunity.”