Pension hike and rail revamp among topics at party think-ins

Fine Gael and Greens meetings to be held in shadow of Coveney no-confidence motion

High-speed rail journeys between Cork and Donegal could form part of a revamped rail network across the island of Ireland

High-speed rail journeys between Cork and Donegal could form part of a revamped rail network across the island of Ireland

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High-speed rail journeys between Cork and Donegal could form part of a revamped rail network across the island of Ireland, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan will tell his party members on Monday.

Mr Ryan will use the party’s think-in at Airfield Estate in Dublin to outline his “vision for the future of rail”, party sources said. An all-island review of rail services got under way this summer in conjunction with the Northern Ireland Executive, and will consider reopening the Letterkenny to Derry line.

Such a move could allow passengers to travel from Donegal to Belfast and onward to Dublin and Cork. The review will also look at delivering more services on lines in Waterford and Limerick, and the potential for services along the western seaboard, Mr Ryan will tell the party.

Fine Gael will on Monday also begin its think-in at the Trim Castle Hotel in Co Meath. In advance of the party meeting, Tánaiste and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar told The Irish Times the economic recovery post-Covid will enable both a welfare package and tax promises made in the Programme for Government.

“There hasn’t been an increase in the pension and most weekly welfare payments since 2019 and, with the cost of living rising again, Fine Gael firmly believes that a welfare package will be needed in October,” he said.

Top tax rates

He also said the party is working to honour Programme for Government commitments that fewer people on middle incomes will be caught by the top tax rate. “Ireland’s top tax rate is the fourth highest in the world and even people on very modest incomes have to pay it. We don’t want people to lose most of any pay rise they get next year to tax,” he said.

“The economic recovery that’s now well under way can make this possible while still achieving our objective of eliminating borrowing for day-to-day spending by 2023.”

However. the Government parties’ think-ins will be overshadowed by a motion of no confidence in Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, set to be put down by Sinn Féin this week, over the appointment of Katherine Zappone as a UN special envoy. The Government is likely to put down a motion of confidence in Simon Coveney when the Dáil resumes .

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