Fine Gael and Labour form 'Government for National Recovery'

Members of the Fine Gael parliamentary party and some 1.000 Labour Party delegates endorsed a Programme for Goverment at separate party conferences today. The Programme was unanimously endorsed by Fine Gael, while Labour delegates overwhelmingly endorsed the Programme. Members of Labour spoke in support of and in opposition to the Programme before a show of hands settled the outcome. [Video of Labour conference & PDF of Programme are below]

The Programme begins with a joint statement on the outcome of Election 2011 in which, it says, "record numbers of Irish people turned to, and chose, Fine Gael and Labour... to begin mending the pieces of a fractured society, a broken economy and to provide a sense of collective hope in our shared future".

The remainder of the document outlines just how difficult this ambition will be to achieve for the self-titled "Government for National Recovery".

On banking and the EU/IMF deal, Fine Gael and Labour say they will:

  • seek a reduced interest rate 
  • defer further recapitalisation of the banks until the solvency stress tests are complete
  • end further asset transfers to NAMA
  • seek to dispose of the public stakes in the banks as soon as possible 
  • re-structure bank boards and replace directors who presided over failed lending practices
  • introduce a bank levy based on the size of a bank’s liabilities
  • establish a Commission to review the future of Credit Unions 

The parties say they will "insist on the highest standards of transparency in the operation of NAMA", though they do not commit to bringing NAMA under the remit of the Freedom of Information Act.

The parties commit within 100 days of forming a government to several job creation initiatives, including:

  • A reverse in the cut in the minimum wage
  • Cutting the 13.5% rate of VAT to 12% until 2014
  • Halving the lower 8.5% rate of PRSI up to end 2013 on jobs paying up to €356 euro per week

In addition, it promises to:

  • keep the corporate tax rate at 12.5%
  • create 60,000 places across a range of work placement programmes and education initiatives, half of which will be distributed in line with the recommendations of the Expert Group on FutureSkills Needs
  • make Literacy and basic workplace skills a "national priority"
  • exempt from VAT service companies that export more than 90% of their output
  • develop Ireland as a ‘digital island’ and first-mover when it comes toinformation technology by ensuring more progress on e-Government and movingGovernment services online, investing in ICT in schools, and investing in information technology in the healthcare sector
  • make Ireland a leader in the emerging I.T. market of cloud computing
  • (introduce several other Labour Market initiatives - see document below)

Other items outlined in the Programme are:

  • A cut in public sector jobs of up to 25,000 
  • The establishment of a jobs fund, an additional 15,000 places in jobs training, and the abolishment of the jobs training agency Fás 
  • Maintain Income Tax rates and bands 
  • A review of the Universal Social Charge
  • The introduction of water charges after water meters have been installed in homes
  • A Site Valuation Tax (Property Tax) will be considered
  • ensure that all State boards have at least 40% of each gender
  • promote greater co-ordination and integration of delivery of services to the Traveller community across Government
  • ensure that trans-gender people will have legal recognition and extend the protections of the equality legislation to them
  • reach 0.7% of GNP for Overseas Development Aid by 2015
  • enforce the prohibition on the use of Irish airspace, airports and related facilities for purposes not in line with the dictates of international law
  • publish a Climate Change Bill
  • incentivise and promote off-shore drilling
  • allow an exemption for domestic turf cutting on 75 National Heritage Area sites
  • the establishment of a website – – to assist residents inreporting problems with street lighting, drainage, graffiti, waste collection and road and path maintenance in their neighbourhoods, with a guarantee that local officials will respond within two working days

On health reform the Programme promises to:

  • Abolish the HSE
  • Introduce Universal Health Insurance, which will be compulsory for every person from either a public or private insurer, by 2016. The State will pay insurance premia for people on low incomesand subsidise premia for people on middle incomes.
  • Provide free GP care to all (GP training places will be increased)
  • incorporate the recommendations of A Vision for Change on mental health including the closure of "unsuitable psychiatric institutions moving patients to more appropriate community-based facilities"
  • introduce a cervical cancer vaccination catch-up programme for all girls insecondary school 
  • extend Breastcheck to 65-69 year old women
  • develop a National Carers Strategy
  • reopen discussions with the Irish Thalidomide Association regarding furthercompensation for victims of Thalidomide
  • seek a mechanism to compensate those women who were excluded on agegrounds alone from the Lourdes Hospital Redress Scheme
  • legislate to regulate stem cell research

On education the parties will reform the Irish curriculum and make no statement on abolishing compulsory Irish. The government will make science a compulsory Junior Cert subject by 2014. "Professional development for maths and scienceteachers will be prioritised" and "a bonus points system for maths" introduced.

Fine Gael and Labour say they will "target up to €2 billion in sales of non-strategic state assets drawing from therecommendations of the McCarthy Review Group on State Assets when available".

Political Reform will include:

  • A reduction in the number of TDs
  • Increase Dail sitting days
  • Cut Ministers' salaries and severance pay
  • (Several other measures outlined in the document below)

Social Protection

Fine Gael and Labour commit to maintaining existing social welfare rates and reversing the reduction in the National Minimum Wage. Few other explicit measures are outlined on social protection. Initiatives are outlined on systemic changes, including the creation of "a new 'one-stop shop' Payments and Entitlements Service to process all major welfare and other entitlements". The parties commit to a "review and update the existing Homeless Strategy... to end long term homelessness and the need to sleep rough". The parties say that eliminating poverty will be an "objective" of this Government, and say a new approach is needed "to break the cycle of child poverty where it is most deeply entrenched". The parties promise to "publish, following wide consultation, a realistic implementation plan for the National Disability Strategy".


The Programmes includes a commitment to:

  • increase mortgage interest relief to 30% for First Time Buyers in 2004-08
  • introduce a two year moratorium on repossessions "of modest family homes where a family makes an honest effort to pay their mortgage"
  • Fast-track personal bankruptcy reform
  • bring forward a coherent plan to resolve the problems associated with ghost estates
  • introduce a staged purchase scheme to increase the stock of social housing


Speaking on RTE television, Enda Kenny said that there is a need for a "change in the way politics is conducted in this country". He said he will seek to dispel "suspicions" in Europe about Ireland's intentions on the EU/IMF bailout package. "We want to pay our way and play our part," Mr Kenny said.

Speaking at the Labour conference, party leader Eamon Gilmore also referred to European relations. He said: "The decision we will take here today will be historic. It will make so much difference to the people who voted for change last week. There is work to be done in repairing this country's relations with Europe. Work to do in getting a better deal for Ireland."

However, Labour TD Tommy Broughan said that in relation to the banking crisis, the Programme contains "a big hole". "We're carrying on the policy of Fianna Fail and the Greens," he said.

Ministerial portfolios be announced on Wednesday 9 March when the 31st Dail convenes for the first time. It is expected that Ministerial posts will follow a 9-6 split in favour of Fine Gael. A working group comprising the Taoiseach, Tainiste and two Ministers will oversee the Department of Finance. 

PDF of the Programme for National Government (from the Labour Party website):

Video of Labour's national conference in Belfield, UCD this afternoon.