The Irish Government's spring/summer legislation Programme is ambitious. 49 priority pieces of legislation (Bills) were announced in January 2018, as part of the new legislative session. The Irish Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar, in unveiling this programme stated that the aim of the Government is to prioritise legislation “which makes a positive impact on people’s lives”.
But the real ambition lies in the difficult issues to be addressed. These include tackling the housing crisis, healthcare, national broadband access, amending the Constitution and gender pay regulation, all of which go to the heart of current public debate in Ireland.
The full programme can be accessed here.
Tackling the housing crisis
Reforming residential tenants' rights, providing a home building financial lender and keeping people in their homes are among the key housing reforms proposed in the Programme.
Four Bills aim to tackle the housing shortage crisis. A new lending institution, the “Home Building Finance Ireland”, is to be established under the Home Building Finance Ireland Bill. This new institution will provide loans to residential property developers on favourable terms to enable new homes to be built quickly.
- The Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Bill aims to provide further protections for tenants particularly in relation to the issue of a valid notice in the termination of a lease.
- The Courts & Land Conveyancing (Amendment) Bill will assist people who are in mortgage arrears to remain in their homes.
- Finally, the Housing (Regulation of Approved Housing Bodies) Bill aims to improve the regulation of over 500 existing Approved Housing Bodies across the country through the establishment of an independent regulator.
Of note is the centralisation of paediatric acute hospital services within the new Children’s Hospital at St James’ Hospital under the Children’s Health Bill. The extension of free GP care to persons in receipt of carer’s allowance under the Health (Amendment) Bill, and the implementation of a statutory scheme to assist those with severe disabilities in meeting their transport costs via the Health (Transport Support) Bill, are also central to the forthcoming Programme.
Three Bills will provide for referendums to amend the Constitution. The most significant is the Amendment of the Constitution (Repeal the Eighth) Bill. This is to remove the absolute protection of the life of the unborn in order to provide for legislation to allow for abortion in Ireland. A referendum will take place in May 2018.
Other new laws will provide for parent and student charters in all schools and the national rolling out of high-speed broadband.
The aspiration of Mr Varadkar is that these new measures “will benefit people right across the country, ensuring the work of Government has a real and tangible impact on our citizens”.
The focus on housing, health and the Constitution is to be welcomed. It remains to be seen what impact the proposed new legislative measures will have on dealing with the supply of housing. If nothing else, the Programme is a reflection of current issues faced by the Government. The inclusion of divisive issues such as abortion reveals that the Government is willing to tackle difficult subjects that affect citizens.