A proposal to inject €10.5 million into the community response to the refugee crisis, and plans to provide financial support for Ireland’s post office network are to be brought to the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys is expected to seek approval for €10.5 million in funding to continue to support community efforts to help people arriving in the State from Ukraine. Under the proposals €5 million would be invested in the Ireland for Ukraine fund run by the Community Foundation for Ireland. Funds from that campaign are allocated to Irish charities and community groups who help refugees upon arrival, as well as to international humanitarian agencies in Ukraine. It is understood that Ms Humphreys will seek approval for a further €5 million to support local development companies involved in the refugee response and another €500,000 for volunteer centres.
Separately, Minister of State at the Department of Communications Hildegarde Naughton is to propose a financial support package for the post office network worth in the region of €10-€12 million a year. There are about 900 post offices across the State, mostly run as small businesses by independent postmasters who are contracted by An Post. The Irish Postmasters’ Union warned last year that as many as 200 post offices were likely to close within 18 months in the absence of new financial supports from the State. A previous €8.5 million package announced last year was funded by An Post. Ms Naughton’s plans, if approved, would represent the first direct State support for postmasters.
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath is expected to update colleagues on State spending for the first four months of this year. Delays related to the pandemic contributed to the €400 million underspend on building projects and other capital investments at the start of the year. It was believed that €1.6 billion would be spent during the period in areas such as schools, transport and hospital projects, although there is an expectation that spending will pick up as the year progresses.
Ministers will be told that the Omicron wave of Covid-19 cases led to pressures at the start of the year that saw the departments of Health and Social Protection spending more than expected. After €1.5 billion in spending commitments related to Covid-19 and measures to help with the cost of living, there is now €2.5 billion left in the €4 billion contingency fund announced in last year’s budget. Senior Government figures have previously said that this fund could be used to help with the cost of responding to the refugee crisis caused by the war in Ukraine.
Minister for Education Norma Foley is due to brief Cabinet on the latest action plan for the implementation of the European Court of Human Rights judgment in the case brought against the State by abuse survivor Louise O’Keeffe. The Department of Education set up a scheme for compensating people who suffered abuse while in day schools, following the court judgment. The initial scheme was criticised and a revised ex gratia payments system was put in place. As of May 18th, 102 applications have been received of which 74 have been approved and 28 rejected.
Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman will bring forward plans to implement the European Union Child Guarantee. The initiative was announced by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen in 2019 with a view to ensuring that every child at risk of poverty in the bloc has access to the most basic of rights such as healthcare and education. The Department of Children is tasked with co-ordinating actions across Government to implement Ireland’s national plan for the guarantee.