herald

Friday 20 October 2017

Pre-school year and new bankruptcy term at risk as stalemate continues

Politics

Enda Kenny
Enda Kenny

Plans to introduce a second free pre-school year and the reduction of the maximum bankruptcy term have been thrown into doubt as a result of the political impasse.

The two weeks paid paternity leave for fathers is unlikely to be in place by September in a move that will come as a major blow to families.

Civil servants across several government departments are unable to progress important legislation because ministers do not have the powers to issue directions.

Several measures that were given funding in October's Budget have effectively been frozen - because there is no government to ensure they are underpinned by legislation.

Two of the crucial measures that are at risk are in the areas of childcare - the extension of the free pre-school year and the provision of two weeks of paid paternity leave for fathers.

A major bill by Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan which allows for the potential merger of up to 10 of the State's 14 institutes of technology, has also been sidelined until a government is formed.

Injection

Plans by former Drugs Minister Aodhan O Riordain to bring in a supervised injection centre in Dublin, and Alan Kelly's plans to set up a planning regulator are also in doubt.

The regulator was announced last year in a bid to address poor practice and irregularities in the planning process.

Last night, Labour Party TD Willie Penrose said the long-awaited bankruptcy measures cannot come into form until a government is formed.

Mr Penrose, who drafted the bill that reduces the maximum term from three years to one, said a key section remains unpublished.

He added that families in serious distress remained tied to the current three-year term while the political stalemate continues.

"This bill is about helping people in distress - but until there is a government, families will continue to suffer," Mr Penrose told the Herald.

The news comes as senior figures in both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail this week attempt to lure independent deputies by offering a suite of proposals, some of which will be tailored to suit specific constituencies.

Both parties are realistically eyeing up the support of around 15 to 17 independent TDs.

With the Labour Party due to abstain from the vote, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin is seven votes behind Mr Kenny before the support of independents is considered.

If Mr Kenny wins the vote, which sources in both parties say is the most likely outcome, Fianna Fail will offer its "tacit support" to a Fine Gael-led minority government.

But Fine Gael sources are wary of Mr Martin's motives.

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