A Shared Future contains good ideas but has many repackaged policies and vague commitments
Responding to the publication of a draft Programme for Government called a Shared Future, Labour Party Leader Alan Kelly TD welcomed the significant movement by the two main parties on environmental issues, but expressed disappointment at the lack of costings, the high level of rebranded and rehashed policies across a range of sectors, and the use of outside reviews and commissions to manage unresolved policy differences.
Commitments throughout the document are vague, and there is a concerning overreliance on the private sector in health and housing.
Deputy Kelly said:
“In the midst of a global pandemic that has redefined and brought centre stage the essential role of the State in providing public services, the draft programme for government that was published today failed to grasp the potential to dramatically improve healthcare, education, childcare and housing services for the benefit of all our people.
“I do welcome that significant environmental concessions have been made to the Green Party but there was already cross party consensus on the level of action required to meet our carbon emission reduction targets.
“What has been published is full of rebranded and repackaged commitments, and the language is deliberately vague on far too many policy areas. I am very concerned that this is a programme for government with no costings contained within it, put together by three parties, two of which bankrupted the country the last time they were in government together.
“Childcare was a dominant issue in the general election, and the problems with our model have been shown throughout the Covid-19 crisis but there is no commitment to a public model, instead another new agency ‘Childcare Ireland’ will be created. There is a focus on ‘town centres first’ but no mention of restoring Town Councils despite Fianna Fáil campaigning for this in the last Dáil.
“The document will mean more of the same for our health service. Fianna Fáil are using their pet project, the National Treatment Purchase Fund to further fund private medicine rather than increase bed capacity in our public health service. It seems this new Government will squander any learnings from taking over capacity in our private hospitals during this crisis by just pumping money into the NTPF instead.
“We in the Labour Party are also concerned about the lack of detail around how the new Government will protect the rights of workers as we come out of this crisis and into a new world of work. Stronger trade union rights and better terms and conditions need to be at the centre of any recovery we are going to see. For example there is no outline of how they intend to reach a Living Wage over the next five years. Vague commitments cannot be relied upon.
“The language on housing is also worryingly vague, and only commits to 50,000 social housing units over 5 years, much less than what is needed, and what the three parties committed to in the General Election. In Education there are no new commitments to reduce costs for parents at primary or secondary level, and under higher education there is no detail on future funding, or improving accessibility and affordability for students.
“The Programme for Government includes many commitments on further balanced regional development and encouraging young people to remain in rural Ireland however much of this depends on the timely delivery of the national broadband plan. Good broadband alone will not keep young people in rural Ireland – quality jobs, greater connectivity and thriving towns will do that. It’s not enough to say they are going to invest in urban centres outside of Dublin and rural Ireland. We need to see specifics and timeframes.”