Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of Fine Gael and Mr Ryan met last night to thrash out outstanding issues such as the State pension age, plans for income tax and USC, and future increases in carbon tax.
Those talks ultimately failed to result in a final programme for government deal last night and will resume this morning.
Mr Martin last night said he expected the leaders to sign off on the document this morning. “We’re nearly there,” he said.
But Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have agreed to the Green Party’s red-line demand that carbon emissions be cut by an average of 7pc a year.
A 2:1 split on public transport spending over new roads infrastructure is also part of the deal, as is a commitment to end offshore oil and gas exploration.
The key farming elements of the programme include:
Direct a proportion of the proceeds of the Carbon Tax towards climate focused measures in the agri-food sector.
Deliver an incremental and ambitious reduction in the use of inorganic nitrogen fertiliser through to 2030.
Ensure the Beef Market Taskforce implements the agreement reached with stakeholders in the beef sector
Invest strategically in the future development of the dairy sector, focusing on greater efficiency and sustainability.
Focus particularly on maximising potential opportunities in the organic sector, the supply of quality Irish grains to an expanding food and drinks industry, and opportunities for homegrown proteins in animal feeds.
Continue to prioritise access to entitlements for young trained farmers under the National Reserve.
Publish a successor strategy to Foodwise 2025, within six months of Government formation, providing an ambitious blueprint for the industry for the years ahead, adding value sustainably in the agri-food sector into the future and supporting family farms and employment in rural Ireland.
Complete a national hedgerow survey
Incentivise the re-wetting of carbon rich soils.
Extend the badger vaccination programme nationwide and end badger culling as soon as possible, consistent with the best scientific and veterinary advice.
Land use review
The Government will undertake a National Land Use Review including farmland, forests, and peatlands, so that optimal land use options inform all relevant government decisions.
The review will balance environmental, social and economic considerations, and involve a process of evaluation of the ecological characteristics of the land. It will include consideration of emissions to air and water, carbon sequestration, as well as climate adaptation challenges.
Policy co-benefits, such as rewetting or forest regrowth to mitigate flooding risks in river catchments, will be considered.
Such a review would allow knowledge transfer to policy makers, advisory services and landowners, to assist farmers in making an informed choice as to how best to use their land while also benefiting from available supports and incentives.
Flagship environmental scheme
The Parties commit to designing a flag-ship environmental scheme under the new CAP which is user friendly for farmers, delivering broader environmental and biodiversity benefits and aligning financial support with climate, forestry and land use objectives.
This will be complemented by an ambitious ECO-scheme under Pillar 1 of the CAP, rewarding farmers who deliver enhanced environmental performance.
The conclusion of the current CAP programme period at the end of 2020 provides a significant opportunity to reorient agri-environment and land use policy to deliver more in the short term on the key priorities of climate, biodiversity, designated land, water quality and carbon reduction and removal.
They plan to pilot this agri-environment scheme during the transition period, supported by additional Exchequer funding.
The scheme will seek to include farmers not currently in GLAS who previously participated in AEOS, and those exiting GLAS. This pilot will inform the shape of the flagship agri-environment scheme for the next CAP.
Meanwhile, the position of the party’s deputy leader Catherine Martin – who is challenging Mr Ryan for his job – will be closely watched as a signal of whether the Greens’ wider membership will approve the deal.
Her supporters in the looming leadership battle have been among the most vocal sceptics of entering government with the two larger parties.
Ms Martin – who had been opposed to entering talks with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael – was silent last night, though sources involved in the negotiations believe she will back an agreed deal.
A Fianna Fáil source said Ms Martin had “given no indication” she is not on board, while a senior Fine Gael figure said it would be hard for her not to back it because she had been at “all the meetings where the agreement was reached”.
A Green source said Ms Martin worked “incredibly hard” on the draft programme and had been “part of every call we’ve made during this process”.
TDs and senators from all three parties are to examine the fine details of the proposed coalition today before their wider memberships are consulted.
The Green Party source insisted the deal represented “a strong programme for government”.
They added: “It contains very significant Green Party policy wins across a wide range of areas – environmental, social, housing and equality.
“I believe our members will see the real progress that can be achieved over the next five years and I think they’ll support it.”
Five-year ‘Carbon Budgets’ setting out greenhouse gas emission cuts for every sector are to feature as part of the battle against climate change.
Other environmental initiatives like funding of €360m a year for walking and cycling, as well as a ban on single-use plastics have been agreed.
The party’s demand for carbon tax increases to €100 a tonne over the next decade is understood to have been among the issues still being considered by the party leaders last night and which failed to result in an agreement last night.
The Green negotiators were said to be particularly happy at securing a commitment to end direct provision for asylum seekers and develop a new system with an alternative accommodation model and a faster application process.
A senior Fianna Fáil source hailed measures to ramp up the supply of affordable housing as areas of the deal influenced by the party. They said: “It’s been a very long process. Our members are nervous about it, but I think we have a good deal.
“There’s a lot of work to be done over the next few weeks to sell it and we’ll be selling it hard to our members.”
Fine Gael pointed to plans for a new ‘cradle to grave’ care deal that would see increased State support for childcare, enhanced parental benefits and a statutory system of home-help for the elderly as key issues it was pushing for.
Tánaiste Simon Coveney said the plans in the draft document were “good for the country” and he was “confident the three parties will be able to sell it” to their membership and the public.
Both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael sought to take credit for plans for a major jobs and stimulus package aimed at helping the hospitality industry and small businesses worst hit by the coronavirus crisis.
The Covid-19 pandemic is said to dominate much of the programme, particularly in the areas of health and education.
Among the other issues being thrashed out by the party leaders last night was Fianna Fáil’s bid to delay the rise in the pension age to 67 next year pending a review.
They were also understood to have discussed plans for income taxes and USC amid Fine Gael’s demand that there be no increases and the possibility of cuts once the economy recovers.
Mr Martin, Mr Varadkar and Mr Ryan were also set to hold discussions on how the coalition will work.
This would include how many cabinet posts each party would have as well as communications in government between the parties.
A Fianna Fáil source said this revolved around “how issues are resolved before they become problems”. They said the expectation in the party was that Mr Martin would take the first stint as Taoiseach.
Mr Martin was tight-lipped on the matter when he spoke to reporters as he arrived at Government Buildings for the talks, merely saying that the first Taoiseach in the coalition would be revealed “in due course”.
RTÉ reported that he said the proposed deal “can represent a new departure for Irish society”. Mr Ryan said a deal had to be struck last night due to the “tight timelines” for consulting with the three parties, although it is now expected to be this morning.