What Have The PDs Ever Done for Me?
– Twenty years ago, when the Party was formed, unemployment was 17%. The country was in a dire economic state. We had the social catastrophe of mass unemployment and mass emigration.
– The single biggest achievement in politics, as it affects real lives, is the 10% plus reduction in our unemployment rate in the last ten years. Down from almost 15% to 4.4%.
– Employment has risen from 1.1 million in 1991 to over 1.9 million in 2005 and it is predicted that 2 million people will be employed in 2006.
– We are now creating more jobs than we can fill.
– Employment grew by 96,200 or 5 per cent in the last twelve months.
Nearly 71,000 these are additional full time jobs.
– The live register at 150,000 is 14,500 lower than two years ago.
– We have a tax system that benefits lower wageworkers over higher income earners.
– Over one third of the work force is now outside the tax net completely in 2005.
– All those on the current minimum wage are outside the tax net completely
– The Budget removed nearly 52,000 low-income taxpayers from tax net in 2006
– The top 25% of income earners, pay 80% of all income tax raised by the State.
– Ireland today has the most generous tax and welfare system for single income families on the average industrial wage in the world.
– We do not de-couple the economy from society.
– The Old Age Pension is now €193.30 per week – a real increase of 67% since 1997.
– A family will receive €2,800 per year for each of the first two children.
– Health spend is €3,000 for every citizen in the State or over €9,000 for every taxpayer.
– Social Welfare, National Fuel Scheme, Respite Care Grant, Carer’s Allowance, Disability Allowance, Back to Work / Education Allowance, Maternity Benefit / Time: ALL INCREASED.
Why Is It Important To Have The Progressive Democrats In The Next Government?
– The last 35 years has taught us that in relation to taxation policy the most important party in government is not the senior party but the junior party.
– The 1973-1977 coalition of Fine Gael and Labour was the only one in to introduce a Wealth Tax.
– Under the 1982 – 1987 coalition of Fine Gael and Labour.
– Our national debt doubled because Labour blocked the necessary cuts in public spending.
– A Residential Property Tax was introduced and the lowest rate of income tax was raised from 25% to 35%.
– The 1989 – 1992 Fianna Fáil / Progressive Democrats coalition cut top rate of income tax from 56% to 48% and the basic rate from 32% to 27%.
– Under the 1992 – 1994 FF-Labour coalition there wasn’t a single cut in either rate of income tax. One of that government’s first acts was the introduction of a 1% “income levy”.
– Under the 1994 – 1997 Fine Gael, Labour and Democratic Left government there was just a single one per cent cut in the basic rate of income tax.
UNDER THE CURRENT FIANNA FÁIL /
PROGRESSIVE DEMOCRATS COALITION
• The basic rate of income tax has been cut from 26% to 20%.
• The top rate has been cut from 48% to 42%.
• Residential Property Tax has been abolished.
• Capital Gains Tax down from 40% to 20%.
• Corporation Tax has been reduced to 12.5%.
What’s The Lesson To Be Learned?
– The real choice at the next election is not the choice between FF / FG, Bertie or Enda.
– The real choice is between the doctrinaire leftists of Labour, Sinn Féin and the Greens on the one hand and the economically liberal Progressive Democrats on the other.
– It is between those who raise taxes and those who lower them.
– It’s between a less productive economy and a more productive economy.
– It’s between the heavy hand of instinctive meddlers and the lighter hand of freedom.
What Progress Has Been Made In The Area Of Health?
– There have been significant improvements across the very wide range of our health services since 1997. The following are a selection.
– Life expectancy and health status up
– The basic indicator of health improvement is life expectancy.
– People in Ireland are living longer, as a result of investment in health services and increased living standards. From 1990 to 2002, life expectancy increased from 75 years to 78. This increase is in line with best results for a developed country.
– From 2000 to 2002 it went up from 76.5 to 78.
– Our living conditions are now healthier: the ban on smoking in the workplace is clearly effective.
– Future actions: We will continue to invest comprehensively in health services and health promotion/improvement to achieve higher life expectancy, better health status and better recovery from illness.
What About Health Funding?
– Public investment in the health services has been increased to over €12.75 billion in 2006. This is approximately a quarter of all public expenditure. Current spending is €12.2 billion and capital investment is approximately €580m this year.
– Government spending on health has more than tripled since 1997. Ireland’s public spending on health was 15% below the OECD average in 1997 and rose to 17% above the average in 2003.
– Public spending on health in Ireland is 72% of the total health spending in the economy. This is practically the same as the OECD average of 73% public.
– In 1997, the Rainbow government increased health spending by 6% over 1996. Every annual increase since then has been higher. The government has prioritised health in each year’s estimates.
– Future actions: Ireland’s economic performance, properly managed, should provide sustainable levels of increases in health spending, both public and private. We envisage the mix of public and private funding will continue in approximately the same proportion as at present.
What’s Been Done For People With Disabilities?
– The largest ever expansion in services for people with disabilities and autism commenced in 2005
– The multi-annual funding package in Budget 2005 amounts to €900m over four years from 2006-2009. This programme will deliver 4,500 new residential and respite places and 400 more community-based mental health facilities.
– Substantial progress is already being made. The target was met in 2005 to deliver 800 extra residential, respite and day places for people with intellectual, physical or sensory disability or autism. There has been a large expansion of home support hours. Over 800 new frontline staff (therapists, care personnel) have already been recruited in the last year to provide these new services.
– In addition, extra funding was provided in 2006 to develop the necessary service capacity in advance of the implementation of Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005.
– Before 1997, there was no multi-annual plan in place and not even a database of people with intellectual disability.
– Future actions: The multi-annual funding commitment will be used to improve services in line with the National Disability Strategy. The necessary steps will be taken to commence Part 2 of the Disability Act. Work will continue to source and recruit the required therapy professionals.
What’s Being Done For Older People?
– The largest ever expansion in services for older people is getting underway this year.
– An additional €110m (€150m in a full year) has been allocated in Budget 2006 for improving services for older people. This is by far the largest annual increase in funding for these services.
– The new funding is helping older people to live in their own homes, in independence and dignity, for as long as possible.
– Approximately two thirds is allocated to community support for older people. Home care packages are to be trebled to 3,000 this year and 250 extra packages have already been put in place, which is in line with targets agreed with the HSE.
– €33m of the new funding is to expand home help services and €13m is to provide additional palliative care. There is also funding for additional nursing home places.
– Future actions: There will continue to be substantial support for, and expansion of, home and community based care for dependent older people. Repayments of nursing home charges will begin this summer. The inspection of public and private nursing homes will be put on a statutory basis. The government is also currently developing a policy for long-term care that is fair, meets people’s needs and is financially sustainable.
Are More Medical Cards and GP Visit Cards Being Issued?
– This year the Tanaiste has introduced the largest increase in medical card means test in 30 years and a new GP visit card now available.
– Between October 2004 and 2005, we increased the basic income guidelines for the medical card means test by 29%, the largest increase in 30 years.
– The Tánaiste also introduced a new benefit, the GP visit card, to make sure that people on low or moderate incomes can visit their GP, and bring their children to the GP, free of charge.
– Since 1997, the means test guideline has been increased by €72, from €112 to €184, well above the rate of inflation.
– The guideline for GP visit cards is 25% higher than for the ordinary medical card.
– Other changes introduced during 2005 have been:
Assessment is now based on people’s income after tax and PRSI;
Allowances for children and dependants have increased;
Account is taken of reasonable expenses incurred in respect of rent and mortgage payments, childcare and travel to work.
– In the period of the Rainbow government, annual means test increases were either £1 or £2. The number of people with medical cards fell by 57,000 in two years between 1995 and 1997.
– Thousands of new cards of both types are now being issued. We have provided funding for 30,000 new medical cards and 200,000 GP visit cards.
– Future actions: We will continue to monitor uptake of medical card benefits, to raise awareness of people’s entitlements and work to make the process easier.
What’s Being Done For Mental Health?
– In the area of mental health new measures are being introduced to protect patients and move them from outdated institutions.
– Psychiatric patients are now moving in large numbers out of old institutions into new community settings.
– There are now 24 acute psychiatric units linked to General Hospitals, up from 16 in 1997.
– 101 additional Consultant Psychiatry posts have been approved – a 49% increase since 1997 to bring the total to 308. This includes an additional 23 Adolescent Psychiatry Consultant posts, to bring that total to 56.
– The first comprehensive review and strategy for Mental Health in over 20 year was published this year by the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy. This has been accepted by Government. In 2006, €25m has been allocated for the further development of our mental health services.
– A new National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention was launched in September 2005. An additional €1.2m has been allocated to the HSE in 2006 specifically for suicide prevention initiatives.
– Since the publication of the Report of the National Task Force on Suicide in 1998, a cumulative total of more than €22.2m has been provided towards suicide prevention programmes and for research.
– The Mental Health Commission was established in April 2002. This is to ensure that the interests of detained persons are protected.
– Mental health tribunals will be established later this year.
– Future actions: We will implement the commitments made on mental health and suicide prevention.
What’s Being Done To Improve Cancer Treatment?
– First national radiotherapy network and major expansion in cancer services
– Since 1997 approximately €920 million additional cumulative funding has been invested in cancer services. This has funded approximately 110 additional consultant posts and 329 additional clinical nurse specialists in cancer care.
– A 15% decrease in cancer mortality in the under-65 age group was achieved in 2001, three years ahead of target.
– BreastCheck and Cervical Screening
– The first population cancer screening programme, BreastCheck, was commenced in 2000.
– BreastCheck is currently available to approximately 160,000 women in the 50 to 64 age group in the Eastern, South Eastern, North Eastern and Midland regions.
– It will begin its services for women in the remaining regions, the West and South, next year, 2007.
– At the Tanaiste’s request, the HSE has recently been asked to prepare a detailed implementation plan for a national cervical screening programme.
– Radiation Oncology (radiotherapy)
– Last July, the Government decided to introduce national radiation oncology network. This will consist of two centres in Dublin, Cork with Waterford, and Galway with Limerick. The PPP finance is being designed by the National Development Finance Agency. It will to be fully in place in 2011.
– Patients from Donegal will be offered services at the new, state of the art radiation oncology centre at Belfast City Hospital later this year. This is practical North South co-operation.
– Radiation oncology services started in Galway in March 2005. They were expanded in Cork also in 2005 with two new linear accelerators. Funding for additional linear accelerators for St. Luke’s Hospital in Dublin has also been approved to offer increased services during the transition to the national network.
– Future actions: Cancer care and cancer control will be central to our health services in the coming decades. The National Cancer Forum has submitted a new National Cancer Strategy to the Tánaiste. This will be submitted to the Government in the near future.
What’s Being Done To Increase The Number Of Hospital Beds?
– The government is investing, and will continue to invest, in new acute hospital beds to meet the needs of an increasing and ageing population.
– There are now over 13,255 beds in public acute hospitals and 1,800 in private hospitals. We have more public acute beds per head of population than Finland and Sweden.
– Since 1997, the number of public acute hospital beds has increased by 1,528, up from 11,727 (in-patient and day treatment places). Most of the increase – over 900 – was in-patient beds. Internationally, the number of acute beds per head of population is falling as more procedures are carried out on a day case basis.
– Since the publication of the Health Strategy in 2001, we have provided funding for 900 more beds. Nearly all are in place now. Our five year capital investment programme includes provisions for 450 more acute beds. We are also encouraging the private sector to invest to create new public beds by moving 1,000 private beds out of public hospitals.
– In Ireland, 506,000 people were treated on a day case basis in 2005, more than double the 1997 level. Over 46% of patients are now being treated as day cases.
– Elective surgery in public hospitals increased by 85% between 1995 and 2002.
– There were over 1 million total discharges from acute hospitals in 2005 – nearly 3,000 a day. 93% of patients were satisfied with the services they received in hospital.
– Future actions: We will improve hospital services for patients through the provision of additional public beds. The initiative to free up 1,000 more public beds currently used for private work will be pursued by HSE. Hospital processes will also be reformed by the HSE.
What Improvements Have There Been In Waiting Times for Hospital Treatment?
Waiting times for elective hospital operations are down significantly. Prior to the establishment of the National Treatment Purchase Fund, people sometimes waited years for elective operations like hip replacements.
Now, in the large majority of cases, the NTPF will offer treatment to anyone waiting over three months. 40,000 people have been treated through the NTPF. There is a high level of patient satisfaction with the NTPF.
Investment in public hospitals has also contributed to a reduction in waiting times. For example, there has been major reduction in waiting times for cardiac procedures. There has been a 153% increase in certain cardiac operations. Since 1997, 800 new staff have been recruited to improve cardiovascular health.
Actions for the future: The NTPF will manage patient waiting times with the new Patient Treatment Register. It will also continue to develop its new out-patient initiative. Offers of treatment will proactively be made to patients. Investment and reforms will also continue in public hospitals to speed up treatments.
What’s Being Done About Hospital Cleanliness?
– First ever national hygiene audit of hospitals
– Under the 10 point A&E plan, the first-ever audit of hygiene in hospitals was carried out and the results published in 2005. There is now a continuous process of auditing and reporting on hygiene standards in hospitals. Hospitals have given increased attention to improving hygiene since the audit was introduced. The next audit is underway.
– Future action: We will maintain a clear focus on infection control and hygiene in hospitals to combat the threat of hospital acquired infections.
What’s Being Done To Improve Accident & Emergency Services?
– Major focus in improving Accident and Emergency services
– The government and the Health Service Executive are giving top priority to improving A&E services. No effort is being spared to get the improvements required. The HSE has been given the resources it has asked for to address the issues.
– Over 1.2 million people attend A&E each year – about 3,300 a day. Over 80% of people in a large survey said they had been seen by a doctor within 3 hours of registering. Almost three quarters said they were admitted to a ward within 6 hours of a decision to admit.
– The actions under the 10 Point Plan continue to be implemented and expanded. For example, hundreds more long term care beds, step down beds and community/home based care packages are being used to help people leave hospital when they are medically ready, and thereby free up beds.
– Work is continuing to open GP out of hours services where they are not in place. The private sector is being contracted to provide additional diagnostic services.
– There are 35 hospitals with A&E departments. Not all have A&E problems. The HSE is now addressing the different factors that cause A&E delays, hospital by hospital.
– Management action to improve hospital processes for patients will improve the speed of care and admission for patients.
– Hospitals are now being given targets to improve their waiting time performance at A&E.
– Additional transit beds are being put in place at A&E in various hospitals so that patients do not have to sleep overnight on trolleys.
– Future action: We will continue to focus with the HSE on actions, policies, processes and resources that will improve patient care at A&E. It is not acceptable that patients, particularly older people, sleep on trolleys in corridors overnight after it has been decided to admit them.
What’s Being Done To Improve
Primary Care Services In The Community?
– Expanded primary care services in the community
– The Primary Care Strategy aims to shift the emphasis from an over-reliance on acute hospital services to primary care teams in the community.
– An initial ten primary care teams have been established nationally. These teams have enabled the primary care model to be demonstrated in action.
– Additional revenue funding of €16m has been provided for 2006, €28.5 million as a full year cost.
– This year, €10m will fund the establishment nationally of 75-100 primary care teams with the provision of 300 additional frontline posts to ensure integrated, accessible services for patients in the community.
– The funding will be targeted to provide the potential for each Local Health Office (formerly Community Care Areas) to establish up to three primary care teams in development.
– Future action: We will continue to prioritise the development of primary and community care and to increase the number of primary care teams. We will work with GPs and other healthcare professions to provide more services, for example the management of chronic diseases, so people don’t have to visit hospitals.
How Many More Frontline Staff Are There In Health?
– 120,000 people work full time or part time in our public health services. Thousands more work in the private sector. Between 1997 and end September 2005, there was an increase of 33,672 public service staff in whole time equivalent terms, including:
– 2,233 more medical/dental personnel (+45%)
– 7,532 more nurses employed in the health services (+28%)
– 7,727 more health and social care professionals (+30%)
– The number of approved consultant posts has increased by 720 (or +56%) to 2,012 in the period January 1997 to January 2006.
– Two-thirds of health services personnel classified as “management/administrative” are involved in direct service provision to the public.
– Future actions: The government plans to double in the coming years the number of hospital consultants from 1,900 under a new contract, in order to achieve to a consultant-provided service.
What’s Being Done to Ensure Improved Child Protection And Welfare?
– Since 1997, €200m additional revenue has been provided for child protection and welfare services.
– There are five times more high support and special care places for children than in 1997 – from 17 to about 100 now. Approximately €50m capital has been provided to achieve this.
– There are approximately 4,280 children in foster care (85% of those in care). There have been substantial increases in foster care allowance.
– The HSE is working with Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) to streamline procedures for vetting those working in health services in respect of children and vulnerable adults. A new streamlined system commenced on 1st January and has greatly improved turnaround times with a phased expansion of vetting to other HSE staff to get underway in 2006. Vetting for voluntary sector will be rolled out on phased basis over the coming months also.
– Future action: we will continue to build child protection and welfare services under the first integrated Office of the Minister for Children set up by the Government in 2005.
What Progress Has Been Made In Justice, Equality and Law Reform?
What’s Being Done to Tackle Crime?
– Increased Garda Resources. Spending on the Gardaí is up from €609 million in 1997 to over €1.25 billion this year.
– Increased Garda Numbers. Garda numbers are now up from 10,800 in 1997 to 12,264 (up over 13%). By the end of 2006, total garda numbers (including recruits in training) will exceed 14,000 (an additional 14%).
– Reformed Garda Organisation. The Garda Síochána Act 2005 introduces the Office of the Garda Ombudsman, the Garda Inspectorate and Local Policing Committees. It also provides for the establishment of the Garda Reserve.
– Tougher Life Sentences. Life sentences for murder will no longer end after 7 years. They will be a minimum of 10 years (or 15 years in cases involving organised crime).
– Combating Anti-Social Behaviour. ASBOs are being introduced into Irish law in the Criminal Justice Bill (currently before the Oireachtas).
– The Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 tightened up the law in relation to drink-related offences leading to rape and sexual assault and common assault figures to drop by a quarter between 2002 and 2005.
What’s The Situation on Asylum Applications?
– Asylum. In 2002 over 11,400 claims for asylum were received. Following various initiatives, including the citizenship referendum, the number of applicants sank to 4,323 in 2005.
What’s Being Done to Protect Consumers?
– Insurance – In conjunction with Mary Harney’s Personal Injuries Assessment Board, Michael has streamlined court rules and procedures and tightened penalties for making false insurance claims. As a result, insurance premia have tumbled by as much as 30%.
– Auctioneering – The Auctioneering Review Group, chaired by Alan McCarthy recommended the establishment of a statutory regulatory authority for auctioneering, tighter rules on the protection of client funds and on becoming an auctioneer.
– Conveyancing – Michael has brought forward the Registration of Deeds and Title Bill 2004 which is currently before the Seanad. It will reform the structures and procedures of the Registry of Deeds and will facilitate the modernisation of practices and. e-conveyancing.
– Public spending – while public spending seems to grow inexorably, Michael is working to contain it. This is most evident on the question of pay in the Prisons Service where overtime has been abolished and significant savings made.
What Law Reform Initiatives Are
Michael McDowell is working to reform, modernise and simplify our laws in a range of areas:
– The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 2003 made it easier for Gardaí to secure closure orders against pubs which permitted disorder.
– The Commissions of Investigation Act, 2004 allows for a cheaper and speedier form of State inquiry.
– The Criminal Justice Bill presents a comprehensive package of anti-crime measures (admissibility of statements given but later withdrawn, fixed penalty procedures, ASBOs and technical changes).
– Reform of defamation law will provide for statutory recognition (by way of Oireachtas resolution) for an independent Press Council.
– Reform of intoxicating liquor law will aim to (a) encourage the consumption of food with intoxicating liquor and (b) counter the trend towards “super pubs”.
– Judicial conduct legislation is being prepared to provide for a statutory basis of dealing with complaints of judicial misbehaviour.
What’s Being Done To Reform Our Prisons?
– Padded cells – The practise of placing mentally ill prisoners in padded cells is being ended. Michael McDowell has directed the Director-General of the Prison Service to replace all traditional padded cells with new safety observation cells.
– Slopping out – Michael McDowell wants to end the archaic and demeaning practice of slopping out at our prisons.
– Replacing Mountjoy Prison – Michael McDowell is pushing ahead to replace the Victorian Mountjoy Prison with a new custom-built facility at Thornton in north Dublin. This will increase capacity, improve prisoner conditions and allow for significant cost savings (through use of automation and modern design).
What’s Being Done to Face Up To Paramilitarism?
– The Peace Process – In December 2004, at Leeds Castle, political talks to restore the Northern institutions broke down. IRA refusal to cease criminality had blocked a deal. Shortly afterwards, the Northern Bank robbery took place and then Robert McCartney was brutally murdered. As a result of the Government standing firm, Gerry Adams had to ask the IRA to “cease all activities” and the IRA was forced to decommission its weapons.
– Criminal Assets Bureau – the CAB continues to hunt down assets illegally held by paramilitary organisations.
What’s The Latest on Decentralisation?
– This ambitious programme involves the relocation of over 10,300 public servants to 58 towns outside of Dublin. Over 50 civil and public service organisations are included in the Programme, and include the relocation of Ministerial Offices and Headquarters of eight Government Departments.
– This is a popular programme. We now have over 10,600 applications from civil and public servants who wish to relocate. Actual movement of staff within and between Departments and Offices is now underway with over twelve hundred staff already assigned to posts which will decentralise.
– Site or building negotiations have been completed in 13 locations. Contracts have been received for an additional 10 locations. Suitable sites have been identified in a further 15 locations and negotiations to acquire have either commenced or are close to commencement in these locations.
– At present there are in excess of 13,000 civil servants working in a variety of locations outside of Dublin, in Revenue™s collection services, Social Welfare’s payments section and the Department of Agriculture’s finance areas. While not on the same scale as the current programme, these were significant movements.
– The Implementation Group (the group changed with making decentralization happen) anticipates that by end 2009 almost 7,000 civil and public servants will have relocated under the programme.
What’s the Office of Public Works Doing about Energy Conservation?
– For the past 2 years, the OPW has been installing Energy Monitoring Units (EMU) in all large state buildings. These highly sophisticated units’ record all electricity & gas/oil consumption in each building every 15 minutes. The energy data is used to compare buildings of similar type/occupancy and identify potential savings and also to target buildings for energy audits, where energy consumption is high compared to established benchmarks. We have installed Building Management System (BMS) dedicated control systems that constantly controls and monitors the operation of all heating and ventilation plant in each building.
– The OPW is considering the running its vehicle fleet, where possible, on alternative fuel sources and move away from its dependence on petroleum products. There are many vehicles within its Building Maintenance area, Heritage Services and its Engineering Services and one pilot project is scheduled to begin shortly. This will lead to way to the introduction of eco- friendly vehicle procurement throughout all Government Departments.
Are We Making The Best Use Of Underused State Assets?
Since the Government’s decentralisation announcement OPW will have realised over €300 million on the sale of surplus and underused State properties. Substantial sales have been completed under the
‘Transforming State Assets’ Programme, including the following :
– Westgate site is a 3.9 Hectare site situated opposite Heuston Station on St John’s Road. Realised some €79,263,000 with €44,916,500 euro coming directly into state hands.
– The sale of 72/76 St. Stephens Green for €52.3 million.
– The sale of former OPW maintenance head quarters in Dublin 2 yielded €22.5 Million for the State.
In 2005 Minister of State, Tom Parlon TD announced acceptance of a tender in the amount of €171.5 million for the sale of the former Veterinary College site in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4. This sale represents the largest ever achieved by the OPW and was actively managed throughout the process. It is a further step in transforming the State’s property portfolio.