Ire­land 2027: My am­bi­tions laid out in 13 ‘sig­nif­i­cant’ pro­pos­als

We must seize the day and build on a buoy­ant econ­omy to un­der­pin a coun­try of equal­ity and fair­ness, writes Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Comment - Leo Varad­kar is Taoiseach and Fine Gael party leader

NEXT month, for the first time in 10 years, we will pub­lish a bud­get that will bal­ance the books and re­duce the na­tional debt.

This will pro­vide a se­cure foun­da­tion that al­lows us to be am­bi­tious about the fu­ture and be­gin plan­ning for the next 10 years. The Gov­ern­ment has been work­ing, so far, un­der the broad head­ing of build­ing a ‘Re­pub­lic of Op­por­tu­nity’. It’s not a slo­gan, but a way of think­ing about how to im­prove peo­ple’s lives, and there is much more to come.

Of course we are oc­cu­pied with cur­rent is­sues and prob­lems, but we also recog­nise that a longer per­spec­tive is needed if we are re­ally to make progress as a coun­try. We are think­ing about the next 10 years and also about the next 20, be­cause we need to plan for an Ire­land that in 2040 will be home to more than 5.5 mil­lion peo­ple. We share the am­bi­tions of many of our cit­i­zens, who work hard, and we recog­nise that we must do more to en­sure they and their fam­i­lies can plan for the fu­ture with con­fi­dence.

In the space of this ar­ti­cle I will list 13 ar­eas that I see as sig­nif­i­cant, to give a good over­view of what this means in prac­tice.

The first is full em­ploy­ment. We are al­most al­ready at the point where there is a job for ev­ery­one who wants one, so the fo­cus will shift to the qual­ity of em­ploy­ment, with a greater recog­ni­tion that good terms and con­di­tions and pro­mo­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties are es­sen­tial in re­cruit­ing and re­tain­ing staff.

So we want to see much bet­ter fam­ily leave, more child­care and fam­ily-friendly work­ing, more home work­ing and more op­por­tu­ni­ties to im­prove our skills.

Over the next 10 years I want our uni­ver­sal health­care project to be com­pleted, cre­at­ing not a per­fect health ser­vice (as none ex­ists) but one that bears com­par­i­son with the best in the world in terms of pa­tient ex­pe­ri­ence, clin­i­cal out­comes, wait­ing times, and charges. Dur­ing this pe­riod our new, world­class Na­tional Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal will be opened and I have no doubt we will all be won­der­ing why any­one ever doubted it would be built.

I want us to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup and I be­lieve it will be a per­fect op­por­tu­nity to show­case the beauty and re­sources of the en­tire is­land, and the ben­e­fits of gen­uine, cross-bor­der part­ner­ship.

Dur­ing the next few years we will also con­sider putting to­gether other joint projects like con­nect­ing our cap­i­tal cities, Dublin and Belfast, by high-speed rail, with jour­ney times of lit­tle more than an hour.

In terms of in­fra­struc­ture we are go­ing to bring our 10-year cap­i­tal plan for­ward along­side the na­tional plan­ning frame­work, so there is co­her­ence to our strat­egy.

This ap­proach is es­sen­tial to en­sure all parts of our coun­try share in the re­cov­ery and our grow­ing pros­per­ity. We will en­cour­age bal­anced re­gional de­vel­op­ment so that cities like Cork, Water­ford, Gal­way and Lim­er­ick can grow by 40pc-50pc, and that ru­ral Ire­land also ben­e­fits. We will work on Dublin Metro, the Cork-Lim­er­ick mo­tor­way, the Gal­way city by­pass and new roads to Derry, Sligo and Mayo, to trans­form the way peo­ple can travel in the coun­try. In ad­di­tion, we want DART trains to pick up pas­sen­gers from places like Leixlip, Drogheda and Clon­silla.

Cli­mate change is one of the great­est chal­lenges we face. It is an is­sue for all coun­tries and we need to work to en­sure elec­tric ve­hi­cles be­come com­mon­place in Ire­land, sup­port cy­cling, pro­duce more re­new­able en­ergy such as wind and so­lar and en­cour­age homes and busi­nesses to in­vest in re­new­able heat.

The next area is re­de­vel­op­ing our cities. We are cur­rently tack­ling a se­ri­ous hous­ing short­age, — and I sus­pect a large part of the so­lu­tion lies in re­de­vel­op­ment of our cities for high-rise qual­ity apart­ment liv­ing, not fur­ther ur­ban sprawl.

We want vi­brant new neigh­bour­hoods all across the coun­try, such as in Water­ford’s north quays, Gal­way’s in­ner har­bour and Dublin’s Pool­beg.

In terms of ed­u­ca­tion we have many is­sues to re­solve, in­clud­ing the fund­ing of higher ed­u­ca­tion. The only chance we have of de­vel­op­ing our po­si­tion as a global hub for in­no­va­tion and tech­nol­ogy is by en­sur­ing that our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem is en­hanced, not di­min­ished.

One am­bi­tion we will re­alise soon is the cre­ation of Tech­nolog- ical Uni­ver­si­ties, which will have a ma­jor im­pact in many parts of Ire­land in­clud­ing, cru­cially, in the south east.

In terms of broad­band, this Gov­ern­ment will not be sat­is­fied un­til we be­come the first coun­try to con­nect ev­ery home to high­speed broad­band, spark­ing a re­vival of liv­ing and work­ing from home in our mar­ket towns and ru­ral ar­eas.

An ab­so­lute pri­or­ity is to en­sure that we rise to the chal­lenge of Brexit. Over the next decade, with the right strat­egy, our farm­ers, tourism in­dus­try and ex­porters can ben­e­fit from more di­ver­si­fied mar­kets, and Dublin can grow into an even big­ger fi­nan­cial cen­tre than it is now. In the same pe­riod we want Ire­land to have dou­bled its global foot­print with diplo­matic, cul­tural and eco­nomic rep­re­sen­ta­tion all over the world.

You can tell a lot about a so­ci­ety by how it treats its most vul­ner­a­ble mem­bers. We will soon rat­ify the UN Con­ven­tion on the rights of peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, but more than that we will live up to the spirit of it and should be­come a global leader in the range of ser­vices and op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able to peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties.

So much progress has been made in North­ern Ire­land over the past two decades. The chal­lenge of the next decade is to en­sure that we con­tinue to build bridges not bor­ders, that we avoid a re­turn to sec­tar­i­an­ism or head counts and fo­cus on bring­ing peo­ple to­gether. Power-shar­ing is the way for­ward and the sta­tus of North­ern Ire­land should only change if there is cross-com­mu­nity sup­port for do­ing so.

At the mo­ment only about a third of peo­ple work­ing in the pri­vate sec­tor or self-em­ployed con­trib­ute to a pen­sion. Within the next 10 years, the new uni­ver­sal pen­sion sys­tem will guar­an­tee that all work­ers have their own pen­sion pot in ad­di­tion to the State pen­sion. This will be up and run­ning by 2021. As a re­sult, peo­ple will have more faith in their fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity in re­tire­ment, and will have greater choice about when they re­tire.

Fi­nally, we have to pre­pare for the un­ex­pected. Five years ago no one would have pre­dicted that Brexit would be the chal­lenge fac­ing our gen­er­a­tion, or some of the other po­lit­i­cal changes which have taken place in the world. As a Gov­ern­ment we have to plan for the fu­ture and be pre­pared for any con­tin­gen­cies or un­fore­seen events which might arise.

We can­not fu­ture proof against ev­ery­thing, but we can en­sure that re­spon­si­ble, strate­gic plan­ning in­su­lates us against the most se­ri­ous ex­ter­nal threats. By deal­ing with these is­sues and more over the next 10 years we can help to build a so­ci­ety which en­ables peo­ple to reach their po­ten­tial, by en­cour­ag­ing a cul­ture of as­pi­ra­tion for all.

‘The Re­pub­lic of Op­por­tu­nity is not a slo­gan — but a way of think­ing about how to im­prove peo­ple’s lives’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.