All posts in My Priorities

Planning for the Future

The government is setting out important plans to open up new opportunities and to solve difficult problems. These plans are being built on a solid foundation. Responsibility for delivery is being assigned to leadership who will be accountable.

 

Investing in our Children’s Future

  • Building extensions and new schools, for 62,000 pupils with a wider choice of school patronage.
  • Investing in a range of new Apprenticeships with an intake of 1,500 in the first wave and 2,500 in the second.
  • A Strategy for Childcare developing free pre-school from age 3 and improving quality and affordability of early childhood care.

 

Building New Infrastructure

  • A New Housing Strategy to fast track new homes (including 35,000 social housing and 20,000 Nama – built).
  • An Integrated Transport Plan for Dublin with a lighter Metro North (Connecting the Airport, DCU and the Mater to Stephen’s Green), extended Luas, more frequent services and better options for cyclists and pedestrians.
  • Better accesss to Healthcare through 80 new Primary Care Centres and the new Chilrdrens Hospital.

Better Services for our Communities

  • A transformation in the oversight and management of the Gardaí with a new Independent Police Authority and a modern ICT system equipped to deal with sophisticated criminals.
  • An integrated strategy to tackle Suicide and ring-fenced money for Mental Health.
  • Better Pathways to Independence for people whose lives have been disrupted by job loss, homelessness, tragedy, disability or addiction

Political Reform

NO GOING BACK

The biggest risk to Ireland is that we slip back to old ways. In government we have made some important changes to prevent the mistakes of the past being repeated:

  • A ban on Corporate Donations and new Regulation of Lobbyists
  • Strong Freedom of Information and new Protection of Whistleblowers
  • A strong Financial Regulator and an independent Fiscal Council to protect against bad budgets
  • A new way of selecting State Boards so only the best suited persons are considered

Politics must continue to change, building on this greater openness and stronger accountability. Loose government spending could undermine the virtuous circle of strong enterprise creating better paid jobs and supporting better services.

Investing in Better Services

Success on the jobs front has delivered a significant payback. Services under acute strain are getting new staff.

  • 2,260 extra teachers and 600 Special Needs Assistants to help children, especially those with special needs.
  • Almost 2,000 more staff in our hospitals compared to a year ago, as a concerted effort, is underway to deal with A&E and long waits.
  • Increases for pensioners and carers and easier access to the Fair Deal to Home care Packages and to GP Care for older people.
  • 550 new recruits entering Garda training strengthens the focus on crime and especially the surge in burglaries, where gangs and serial offenders are being targeted.
  • A fantastic new 10,000 student campus in Grangegorman will be a great asset for the Northside.

However, it is not just about more spending, it is about working smarter. We have merged or closed over 150 agencies. It is also about learning new ways to solve difficult problems. We need to understand what works and what does not, and to promote creative solutions using technology and different ways of working.

Making Work Pay

Working families have struggled hard during the crash. We are now able to make changes that are making work pay for all families.

  • Over 125,000 people stand to gain from a proposed increase in the National Minimum Wage to €9.15 which is worth €1,000 to a person working full-time.
  • The gradual restoration of public pay cuts will favour the lower paid, who will get a €1,000 boost to earnings starting in January 2016.
  • 71% of private employers indicate that they plan to increase pay in 2016.
  • The Back to Work Family Dividend and increased Homecarer Tax Credit helps working families.
  • Cuts in USC and Income tax have taken over 2 points off the tax rates at low to middle income levels – a saving of up to €1200.

We have a virtuous circle where the competitive edge of our enterprises is creating more jobs and that is delivering better living standards. Keeping this progress going is vital to our success as a country.

Jobs

My responsibility has been to steer a jobs-led recovery to get back on our feet as quickly as possible. Through hard work, Irish workers and businesses have managed to turn around the trend of job loss much quicker than predicted.

The independent Central Statistics Office has confirmed that:

  • Over 64,000 extra people are at work in Dublin with their lives back on track
  • Unemployment in Dublin is now under 8%, down from a peak of 13.5%
  • In the past 2 years all the new jobs have been full-time
  • Youth unemployment is down by one third and net emigration down by two thirds
  • Most new jobs are well paid – in good companies, trades and professions

Our economy is capable of creating 40,000 extra jobs each year if the right policies are followed.

The new jobs have brought in extra tax revenue which has allowed a start to be made in reversing the impact of the crash on families and on services.