Latest: Radical shake up of some Government departments likely

Update 8.20pm: Outgoing Junior Minister Simon Harris and Meath East TD Regina Doherty look set to be promoted to the senior Cabinet tomorrow by Enda Kenny, writes Daniel Mc Connell.

Mr Harris has been linked to the Department of Social Protection and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, but it is believed current Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe could pip him for that post.

Current Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald looks set to be appointed Tánaiste while remaining on as Justice Minister.

Sources have told the Irish Examiner that a radical shake up of some Government departments is likely.

It is understood that the Department of the Environment will be split and a new Department of Housing and Local Government will be formed and be housed at the Customs House.

The Environment function, taking in climate change, will transfer to the Department of Energy and Communications. Current Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney looks set to transfer to that new department.

Arts Minister Heather Humphreys is being linked with a move to the Department of Agriculture.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar is expected to remain in his department despite some speculation this evening that he could move.

The vote to see Mr Kenny re-elected Taoiseach will commence when the Dail convenes at 12pm.

Simon Harris
Simon Harris

Update 4.30pm: One member of the Independent Alliance has expressed his deep disappointment at the document, and has lashed out at its leaking to the media before he and his colleagues got to read it writes Daniel McConnell

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr John Halligan said contrary to the spin, a deal was not yet done on Waterford Hospital.

He expressed his annoyance that the name of the hospital was wrong in the draft document.

Mr Halligan said he and other members of the Alliance are disappointed that the draft programme for Government was leaked to the media before they had a chance to read it.

The Waterford TD said it was "outrageous and unprofessional" and no way to do business.

He said there are now some inaccuracies being reported and he confirmed that the current document does not contain the commitment he was looking for on hospital services in the south-east.

Update 4.00pm: An overhaul of the judicial appointments system, the reopening of garda stations and a new Public Defender System for citizens will be introduced under draft plans for the new government writes Elaine Loughlin and Juno McEnroe.

A new court is to be set up to handle mortgage arrears under the draft programme for government.

While the document has also committed to establish a national service to help struggling home owners and a scheme to help first time buyers get a foot on the property ladder will be set up.

Latest: Radical shake up of some Government departments likely

Independent TDs have been given until 4pm to respond to the draft programme for government.

Members of the Independent Alliance and the five rural Independents as well as Katherine Zappone and Michael Healy-Rae all received the document after 2pm.

The document commits the new government to reform the judicial appointments system, through the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board. New legislation will reduce its membership, there will be an independent chairperson and a lay majority including independent people with specialist qualifications.

The numbers of external candidates for vacancies should be reduced to five.

Under the changes, the Government’s discretion to appoint judges from outside the list will be removed.

A new judicial council and board will also be set up to promote high standards.

The programme commits the government to increasing garda numbers by 15,000, to double the numbers in the garda reserve and to free up more gardai by putting more citizens in roles.

Under existing capital agreements, new intelligence led policing, an upgrade in ICT infrastructure and further investment in the garda fleet are all committed to again.

The plan also says there will be “new and refurbished garda stations throughout the country” although it does not say where.

Existing proceeds crime of legislation will also be reviewed and resources will be assessed for the work of the Criminal Assets Bureau.

The new government will also examine how communities interact with CAB about information on suspected use of proceeds of crime.

A smaller CAB could also be set up to target regional criminal assets, the document says.

The Government will also examine the potential for a new Public Defender system which will report to the relevant Oireachtas Committee and government within six months.

A review of the boundaries of garda districts and the spread of garda stations is also committed to.

Deployment and rostering of gardai will also be examined.

The new government commits to launching a pilot scheme to reopen garda stations in urban and rural areas.

Special garda units targeting gangland crime will be fully resourced, the document says. A new dedicated armed unit for the Dublin area has also been committed to, as was promised by Fine Gael during the general election.

A number of commitments have also been given in the area of housing, mortgages and homelessness.

  • These include new court is to be set up to handle mortgage arrears under the draft programme for government.
  • The document states that the government will “protect the family home and introduce additional long-term solutions for mortgage arrears cases.”
  • This includes the establishment of the Debt Resolution Scheme (DRS) to standardise the supports available to borrowers in mortgage arrears.
  • A dedicated new court will be set up to “sensitively and expeditiously handle mortgage arrears and other personal insolvency cases”.
  • A ‘help to buy’ scheme will be set up within 12 months to assist first time buyers get on the property market by ensuring “availability of adequate, affordable mortgage finance or mortgage insurance”.
  • The Taoiseach will appoint a Minister for housing and the document also provides details on the numbers of social housing to be rolled out.
  • The draft programme promised to accelerate the delivery of the committed €3.8 billion Social Housing Strategy with local authorities now delivering new hosing in two phases.
  • The document promises to deliver an extra 18,000 homes by the end of 2017 and a further 17,000 by the end of 2020.
  • In the first year of government, Nama will also be consulted and encouraged to be “more ambitious” in its commitment to deliver 20,000 residential units by 2020.
  • A new rural resettlement scheme is proposed for the first year of government to “promote the advantages of rural living and ease of housing pressures in high demand areas.
  • This will be coupled with a “root and branch” review of the planning system to reduce the uncertainty and length of the planning process.

Update 2.30pm: A deal between Fine Gael and Independents to form a long-awaited government is expected to be confirmed by 4.30pm this afternoon, 68 days after the general election writes Fiachra Ó Cionnaith.

Acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny has given the Independent Alliance and five-strong rural TDs group until 3.30pm today to sign off on the deal after weeks of intense negotiations.

The Independents, who are crucial to ensuring Fine Gael has enough support to form a government, were given the document shortly before 2pm this afternoon after lengthy talks over its details this week.

It is understood they were told to give a response to Mr Kenny by 3.30pm today, allowing the Fine Gael leader to inform the Dáil by 4.30pm that a final taoiseach nomination vote will take place on Friday.

The 4.30pm cut off point is key to organising a vote tomorrow instead of next week, as Mr Kenny must inform the Dáil of the intention to hold a vote by close of business today.

If not, any vote will be delayed until next Tuesday at the earliest, a situation which could lead to a number of Independents coming under fresh pressure in their constituencies not to support the party.

It is believed Fine Gael will have the support of all six members of the Independent Alliance which includes Shane Ross, Finian McGrath, Sean Canney, Michael Fitzmaurice, John Halligan and Kevin 'Boxer' Moran.

In addition, it is believed to have the further backing of four of the five rural TDs members, with Michael Collins understood to be reluctant to enter government with Fine Gael.

Allowing a taoiseach nomination vote to take place tomorrow means Mr Kenny will be able to form a cabinet before the weekend.

However, while between four and five ministerial positions are predicted for Independents, it is unclear whether Mr Kenny will go to each would-be minister directly or ask their Independent group to put forward an individual to potentially fill certain roles.

Update 1.30pm: Independent TDs said there are “number of outstanding issues” as they entered combined talks to go through a tri-party draft programme for government writes Elaine Loughlin.

A vote for Taoiseach is now highly unlikely to be held today as those involved in negotiations said a number of issues still have to be addressed.

Many Independents have signalled they will have to return to their constituencies tonight to talks with supporters before they vote, which mean a ballot could not take place until at least tomorrow.

Latest: Radical shake up of some Government departments likely

Enda Kenny will have to let the Dáil know before 4.30pm today if a vote is going to be held tomorrow.

Entering government buildings this afternoon rural Independents said they would not be rushing through the document which Fine Gael officials.

Galway West TD Noel Grealish who is among five rural Independents said he would have to go back to his constituency before signing off on any document.

Latest: Radical shake up of some Government departments likely

“We are getting the document we have to go through that document with all of us here and the Independent Alliance.

“We are looking forward to getting that and going through that and we will see what the outcome of that will be.

“We will have to see what is in the final document, will sit down as a group and we will go through it and discuss it to see where we will.

“We have to get a government in place that is right, that will work for this country and we are willing to play our part on that,” he said.

Tipperary Independent Mattie McGrath said: “There are a number of outstanding issues we will have to meet ministers and clarify them, they could be just down to words in some instances but they are still there.

“This is a document of probably 150 pages. The small print will be telling; we have to be happy with every sentence in that.”

Denis Naughten – who has been widely tipped to be given a ministerial role if he supports a Fine Gael led minority government - said no talk of ministerial positions had yet been discussed

“There hasn’t been any discussions whatsoever on that and we are still a long way off that,” he said.

“Our objective here has always been to try and address how a government does its business and I think you are going to see from the document that comes out of this that there is going to be a different approach to government.

“Whether we are in government or not has yet to be decided.”

Update 10.44am: Independent Alliance spokesman Shane Ross has quickly poured cold water on Simon Coveney’s suggestion that a vote for Taoiseach could happen later today.

Independents say that there are a number of issues are still to be ironed out.

Among those are cabinet positions, which the Alliance says will be discussed this afternoon.

Deputy Ross said it is more realistic that we will see a vote for Taoiseach tomorrow.

Latest: Radical shake up of some Government departments likely

“I don’t think there’ll be a vote on the Taoiseach today, as I think that even if a deal is done today, TDs will want to go back to their constituencies and consult with their constituents and supporters and advisors about that,” he said.

“We’re a lot closer than we were yesterday, as you know, we were rushed into frenetic activity yesterday and quite a lot of business was done,

“I don’t know whether a deal will actually be finalised today.”

Update 10.10am: Acting Fine Gael Minister Damien English is predicting that up to 16 Independents could back Fine Gael.

Latest: Radical shake up of some Government departments likely

“It’ll be a Government that can actually deliver on policy, deliver its budgets, make the necessary changes for homelessness and housing and health and many other areas as well,” he said.

“And that’s the way it looks.

“I suppose over the next couple of days some independents might decide it’s not for them to support this Government, the next Government, that’s their choice, their prerogative.

“Others might decide to support in certain policy areas, on different days of the week, over the years ahead, but for the moment, it looks like there’s, say, 14 to 16 anyway.”

Earlier:

Acting Minister Simon Coveney is hopeful that a vote for Taoiseach could take place this afternoon.

Latest: Radical shake up of some Government departments likely

The Fine Gael negotiator said a Programme for Government with Independents should be ready by midday.

Minister Coveney said he is confident that the majority of Independents involved in talks will agree to enter Government.

While a vote for Taoiseach may be delayed until tomorrow, Mr Coveney said that Enda Kenny can be elected as early as this afternoon.

"Most of the policy work is now done, and we're hoping we'll have a document, I suspect by around midday, that the Independents and of course ourselves can look at and agree to finalise," he said.

"I know it seems like an eternity for people who are watching, and we are conscious of that, that's why we're very anxious to conclude this process today, if it's possible to do that, and if not, early tomorrow."

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