Taoiseach Enda Kenny has set out five priorities for his minority Government’s first 100 days with ministers tasked with creating plans to tackle the housing crisis, rural broadband and hospital overcrowding.
Among the commitments in the programme for government – billed by the Taoiseach as a “partnership for a fairer Ireland” – is a target of only 7% of patients waiting six hours in A&Es for treatment by 2021, down from the current figure of one third.
It also pledges to bring in free GP care for under 18s and reduce average waiting times for appointments, procedures and diagnostic tests.
With housing shortages at unprecedented levels the Government said councils will supply 18,000 homes by the end of next year and another 17,000 by the end of 2020.
Bad-bank Nama is being asked to push for more than the 20,000 homes it has promised over the same period.
The action plan will assess empty properties, including disused commercial units, which could be turned into new homes.
Six garda stations in rural and urban areas are to be reopened on a trial basis in the next two months.
The impact on crime rates will be monitored – a move which could pave the way for new cabinet minister Shane Ross to claim credit for getting a permanent garda presence back in Stepaside, Co Dublin.
But Mr Kenny said there was a simple objective at its core – to make people’s lives better in every part of Ireland.
“This Government is ambitious and optimistic. Politics is always about what is possible,” he said.
“That sense of possibility is the touchstone of this Partnership Government for a Fairer Ireland. The Government will work with all members of the Oireachtas and with wider society to deliver real and positive change for the people of Ireland.”
A child benefit reform linking records on payments to school attendance figures was criticised.
Tanya Ward, chief executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, said: “This is a daft proposal that would seriously undermine the rights of children. Child Benefit is a universal payment designed to help families with the cost of caring for their children.
“It should in no way be used as a tool to punish parents and families.”
In the first 100 days Mr Kenny has asked for an Action Plan for Housing and a task force to be set up to look at the issue of broadband and mobile coverage in rural areas.
In politics, the budget process is being reformed to include a Spring Statement and discussions on the economy ahead of the October tax and spending announcements.
Mr Kenny’s new cabinet, which includes three Independent TDs, also agreed to r eactivation of the National Treatment Purchase Fund to reduce waiting lists, and prepare a new winter A&E plan.
It will also press for government and schools to create new after-school care arrangements.
Mr Kenny said: “The Irish people have worked hard for the progress the country has made and together we can build a better future for all our people in a fair society underpinned by a strong economy.”
Other commitments in the plan are to increase the spend on public services of 6.75 billion euro over the next five years.
On crime and security, garda numbers are going to be increased to 15,000 and the Government will invest in CCTV on the road network and in towns and cities.
Laws on the proceeds of crime are also to be reviewed including making it easier for people to give information to the gardai and the long-awaited electronic tagging of people on bail will also come into effect.
On climate change, about 35,000 hectares of new forest are promised and a plan will be published in six months on how electricity should be generated up to 2050 and how emissions can be cut with a focus on transport, building and farming.
The focus is on offshore wind, wave, tidal and solar projects and developing bio-energy resources.
On education the pupil-teacher ratio for junior and senior infants classes in schools are to be reduced.
A national obesity plan is also promised in the health plan along with a sugar tax on drinks, injecting rooms for drug addicts and a new cardiac care “cath lab” for heart patients in Waterford University Hospital – a success for Independent TD John Halligan in the negotiations.
New fathers will also be offered two weeks statutory leave from September on the birth of a child.