Government Buidings, Dublin

Jun 15, 2020 | Ireland, Opinion, Politics | 0 comments

Editorial: Programme for Government

Government Buildings, Dublin
John Hunter

Written by Stephen Moynihan

In International, Opinion’s view on the Programme for Government agreed today [June 15th] by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the Green Party.

5min Read

Stephen Moynihan

Written by Stephen Moynihan

In International, Opinion

5min Read’s view on the Programme for Government agreed today [June 15th] by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the Green Party.

The Programme for Government, entitled Our Shared Future, was released today [15th June] following weeks of negotiations between Fianna Fáíl, Fine Gael and the Green Party. It outlines in broad strokes the missions and aims of the next government, which the three parties will form should they get approval from their respective membership. Fianna Fáíl simply require a over 50% of their membership to endorse the deal, Fine Gael’s vote is more complicated but the Parliamentary party holds 50% of the votes so it should pass relatively safely. The sticking point may be with the Greens – they need a two-thirds majority of their membership to support the deal, and have already been stung as a minor coalition partner in the relatively recent past.

The aims of the programme are laudable, which, if implemented, would create a more equitable and fair society then that prior to COVID-19. Particularly welcome are the focus on balanced regional development; greater inclusion of people based on their gender, membership of the LGBTI+ community and ethnicity; an end to direct provision; climate action and ensuring a just transition; greater access to healthcare and housing; the creation of a ‘new social contract’; and the emphasis placed on Ireland’s role as a global citizen in ensuring the protection of democracy and the rule of law abroad, along with a commitment to spend 0.7% of GNI on overseas aid.

However, there are notes of caution. Many of the commitments are broad to such a degree that their success of lack thereof could not be readily adjudicated, such as the socio-economic inequality section which states that the potential government ‘will examine the introduction of a new ground of discrimination based on socio-economic disadvantaged status to the Employment Equality and Equal Status Acts’. An examination will not suffice in this regard – action must be taken to prevent discrimination. Similar can be said for the examination of Universal Basic Income.

Furthermore, the feasibility of this programme for government must also be questioned. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have promised to use borrowing following the COVID-19 crisis in order to fund these aims, as they should – borrowing is cheap, we have a cooperative European Central Bank, and investment is vital in ensuring the creation of a better society.

The programme’s statement that, in closing the deficit, the government “will focus any tax rises on those taxes which tax behaviours with negative externalities such as carbon tax, sugar tax, plastics, etc” is surprising. The nature of these taxes is to reduce these harmful behaviours – to depend on these to close a deficit is paradoxical, should these taxes succeed in their aims then income from them would reduce.  There needs to be greater clarity with regards to the financing of these aims going forward.

Whether a Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael-Green Party coalition will be able to follow through with this is a separate issue, with Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald and many on the left already raising their doubts as you can see in the tweet below.

Overall the aims of this Programme for Government should be welcomed by those who wish to live in a more equitable and fair society, whether the government – if formed – can square the circle in terms of financing these measures is another matter.

Update: This article originally stated that there was no mention of income tax or USC in the document – this was incorrect and was based off a late draft of the agreement. The final document states that income tax and USC will remain unchanged going forward.

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