General Election 2020 – what the parties are saying about key VFI issues
The VFI has identified six key issues for General Election 2020.
- Introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing
- Insurance reform
- Support for rural transport schemes
- Lower Excise Duty
- Balanced regional development
- Reduce VAT rate
We’ve studied party manifestos to see what commitments each party has made about these issues.
- Rural Transport – Labour will re-launch a simplified version of the Rural Hackney Scheme and provide subsidies for operators in rural areas, including local publicans. “We will also promote a Pooled Group Insurance scheme for hackney drivers, to lower their premiums,” it says.
- Regional development – Labour says it will rebuild economic activity in every region by investing in every one of Ireland’s 80 largest towns, including investment to develop their town centres. Larger towns act as hubs for smaller towns and villages, and in turn for the surrounding townlands and rural areas. Labour’s strategy is to ensure that each town has more medium-sized employers (50-250 jobs each). Incentives and grants will be created to assist towns that lack larger employers, including infrastructure grants and temporary rebates on commercial rates.
- Insurance reform – Labour will promote Pooled Group Insurance schemes which will ensure significantly cheaper premiums for businesses, voluntary and community groups who could act together to negotiate lower premiums. The Department of Enterprise will be tasked with supporting and facilitating sectors such as childcare operators or tourism businesses who wish to pool together to seek insurance.
The party will introduce a National Claims information database to provide transparency on claim costs and awards for injuries. “We will also ensure that the Personal Injuries Commission engage in stronger scrutiny of claims and reduce the claims period for minor soft injury tissue injuries,” it says.
Labour will require lawyers to comply with the duties of candour, to ensure they do not to seek to win litigation by any improper means. “We will also seek stronger enforcement of legislation surrounding advertising of “no win, no fee” legal services.”
In its manifesto, Fine Gael claims to be “Rural Ireland’s voice at the heart of Government”.
- Rural Development: Action Plan for Rural Development, brought forward by Fine Gael in 2017, introduced the first ever coordinated, cross-government and cross-agency approach to supporting rural Ireland. “Building on this, we will implement the next Action Plan for Rural Ireland this year. Our new plan is underpinned by the transformational NBP. It will focus on ensuring that rural Ireland is a place where the young believe that they have a future to live, work and raise a family.”
A new Town and Village Renewal Scheme – Since 2016, €210 million has been invested in rural Ireland through the Town and Village Renewal Scheme, the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund and the CLÁR programme. This funding has supported improvements in the public realm, stimulating economic activity and improving the attractiveness of towns and village centres for local people and residents.
“We will continue to expand tourism opportunities throughout Ireland by: Prioritising the development of the Wild Atlantic Way, to bring further sustainable benefits to communities along the Western Seaboard, alongside the development of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands and Ireland’s Ancient East; Developing the Dublin to Cork Coastal Route, to increase the tourism potential for communities in the East and South-East;Investing heavily in new greenways and cycle routes, to achieve an integrated nationwide network; Increasing investment in Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland, to improve promote our overall offering as a top quality and value-for-money destination.
- Border Tourism – “We believe the border should not be an impediment to developing tourism opportunities on the island of Ireland. As set out in the recent New Decade, New Approach deal for Northern Ireland, we will complete the Ulster Canal connection from Clones to Upper Lough Erne and actively promote greenways in border areas. We have allocated approximately €40 million to greenways development over 2020 and 2021.”
- Regional development – Balanced growth across Ireland Project Ireland 2040 will ensure that, over the next 20 years, there will be a much better and more even balance of growth across Ireland. All regions will grow at broadly comparable rates, it says. The main contributor to where people live is the availability of employment. Without a plan for regional jobs, balanced development is not possible. Fine Gael was responsible for the first coherent response to the enterprise needs of the regions with the Regional Action Plans for Jobs.
- Insurance – Fine Gael is committed to cutting the cost of insurance. “We will extend the transparency of the claims database to cover public/ employer liability insurance; create, from existing resources, an office within Government tasked with encouraging the entry of international insurers into the Irish market; make perjury a statutory offence and easier to prosecute, to ensure that false or misleading evidence in insurance cases is discouraged; introduce a new deterrent to prevent individuals with a history of bringing fraudulent claims from bringing new claims without the prior approval of the High Court, to deal with serial claimants; Consider changes to the Occupiers Liability Act and the Civil Liability Act, to strengthen waivers and notices to increase protections for consumers, businesses, sporting clubs and community groups.
- MUP – The implementation of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act will be instrumental in reducing harm from excessive alcohol consumption. “We will honour our longstanding commitment to introduce Minimum Unit Pricing at the same time as its introduction in Northern Ireland, to ensure that cross-border price differentials do not undermine its effectiveness.”
- MUP – Fianna Fáil will introduce Minimum Unit Pricing in conjunction with Northern Ireland.
- Regional development – Achieving balanced regional development will be at the heart of Fianna Fáil policy in government. Too many communities feel left behind by economic progress in urban centres. The M50 mentality of Fine Gael and Leo Varadkar risks alienating rural Ireland and creating a wedge deep in the heart in the country between rural and urban communities. FF goals are to spread prosperity to all parts of the country, build sustainable communities in rural Ireland and ensure access to quality public services. FF will set up a new specialist IDA, Enterprise Ireland unit for rural investment.
- Rural Transport – FF says this government has all but closed rural Ireland. People living outside of the M50 have no public transport options, and it is harming quality of life. “We will: Provide subsidies to rural hackney drivers to help them meet insurance costs at a capped cost of €6.5m.
- Insurance – Tackle insurance costs with strengthened anti-fraud penalties. FF says it will: Tackle costs • Fully establish the Judicial Council to provide guidance on personal injury claims. • Regulate claims management companies and claims harvesters. • Review the balance of “Duty of Care” in legislation. • Strengthen the Solicitors (Advertising) Regulations of 2002. • Reform the PIAB by making it an offence to not fully co-operate with it. Get tough on insurance fraud • Establish a publicly funded Garda Fraud Unit. • Ensure that fraudulent claims are forwarded to the DPP. • Increase the penalties for fraudulent claims. • Publish insurance fraud data. • Make fraudulent claimants pay the legal expenses for defendants. • Make it an offence to knowingly provide false information to PIAB.
Increase Transparency, tackle anti-competitive behaviour and foster competition • Give the Competition regulator (the CCPC) effective enforcement powers to punish and deter anti-competitive conduct. • Establish a Public Liability and Employer Liability price index. • Establish a National Claims Information Database for employer liability and public liability to track the level of claims. • Establish a databank within the Central Bank for new entrants. • Prioritise establishing a fully functioning European wide single insurance market. • Work to remove dual pricing from the market.
- Tax – FF will introduce Commercial Rate relief for rural businesses The commercial rates system has to encourage start-ups and regional development not penalise them. A reformed system will secure the foundations of local authority finance and help promote enterprise into the future. “Our measures are targeted to help business and revitalise town centres across Ireland within the existing financial envelope of local authorities.
FF says it will: • Establish a Rate Holiday for start-up and small rural businesses • Introduce an “Inability to pay” clause for struggling businesses • Limit increase in commercial rates revaluations and allow them to be spread over a number of years • Introduce long-term reform of Commercial Rates on a revenue neutral basis”.
- Boost tourism across the regions – “Our remarkable natural heritage and rich cultural life has been a strong tourism product. We need to ensure our success in attracting tourists is replicated throughout the country and sustained into the future. FF says it will: • Boost funding to Fáilte Ireland & Tourism Ireland by €25m. • Launch a new advertising campaign emphasising the regions within this funding.”