Two Fine Gael politicians believe innovative measures need to be deployed to assist young people with antigen testing, secure employment, childcare and the housing market.
Deputy Richard Bruton and Senator Regina Doherty were speaking today, the fourth day of the Fine Gael Ard Fheis in a session entitled ‘Fine Gael for the Future’ which is focused on ensuring Ireland emerges safely and successfully from the pandemic, while embracing the changes we have made to our lives.
Leader of the Seanad, Senator Doherty said: “After a year of caution, worry and concern, the next few months is the time to be ambitious. Ambitious about reopening, getting back to doing all the things we missed, and making sure young people get to enjoy the ‘new normal’ after missing out on so much over the past year and a half.
“Young people have sacrificed a huge amount for the greater good of the country, and they now need to be assured that they’ll be vaccinated as soon as possible. The potential impact of the Delta variant can be preemptively negated here by getting jabs into the arms of younger people, who are now thankfully able to start socialising more.
“We are doing a major disservice to the people of this country by not rolling out increased use of antigen testing. This weekend for example, 2,400 spectators will be allowed in to Croke Park to watch the Alliance Football League Division 3 final between Derry and Offaly.
“2,400 spectators in a stadium with 82,300 seats affords 34 seats per person. This is so unambitious and frankly embarrassing when we compare with our European neighbors and their management of the Euro 2020 fixtures.
“The evidence for antigen testing is clear, the Government’s Ferguson report is clear; the delay will be disastrous.
Speaking on the issues currently facing young people, Chairman of Fine Gael’s parliamentary party, Richard Bruton said: “Young people have borne the brunt of the job disruption caused by Covid. While remote working has many benefits, it has also shown the importance of maintaining a work life balance that guarantees people are not ‘always on’. Young people are entitled to a new social contract which ensures that they don’t fall victim to precarious working and imbalanced, overstretched lives.
“The new world of work also creates diverse challenges for parents trying to care for their children. Policy makers need to listen to those problems and address them in innovative ways. This concept is at the core of our Policy Lab, through which we’ve already spoken directly with young people and parents on the issue of Care of the Child. This is a new way of doing politics that no other party in Ireland is doing at the moment.
“We also know that a whole cohort of young people are locked out of home ownership. The compact development which we need for the future is vital, but young first-time buyers cannot be expected to shoulder the extra costs from which we all benefit.
“While home ownership is an aspiration for many people, a lot of young people are focused on the supply and cost of renting. We have taken radical measures by introducing cost-rental schemes which will increase the supply of affordable rental properties, but we need to be more ambitious and empower the Land Development Agency to further increase supply by upping its budget by more than 50%.”
Senator Doherty concluded: ““There is no excuse for a slow and half-hearted return to the way we used to do things. It’s time to build a new normal – and build it fast.”