JOBS retention initiatives and improving businesses’ access to credit will be key focuses of a post-lockdown stimulus package, the new Taoiseach has said.
Micheál Martin expressed hope of having the fresh economic measures ready for implementation by the middle of July.
Mr Martin and fellow Cabinet ministers met at Dublin Castle yesterday to discuss how best to continue to support workers and businesses as they deal with the economic shock caused by the pandemic.
The Fianna Fáil leader said that the package would also concentrate on “fine-tuning” ongoing State support, such as the temporary wage subsidy scheme.
“The important thing about the July stimulus is what will work quickly,” he said.
Mr Martin added that it was important to take comprehensive action prior to the next budget in October.
“There will be a budget in October, there will be a more comprehensive economic plan of recovery developed, but this has to deal with the immediate situation,” he said.
During a post-Cabinet media conference, Mr Martin also said Ireland would be led by scientific advice when it came to the potential easing of foreign travel restrictions.
On calls for proactive enforcement of new regulations to wear face masks on public transport, the Taoiseach insisted “compliance takes time”, and expressed confidence more people would start to wear coverings.
Tánaiste and business minister Leo Varadkar said the economic package had to be of sufficient scale to deal with Ireland’s economic problems.
“We are facing a very serious mass unemployment crisis in Ireland, mass unemployment and potential mass insolvencies of businesses,” said the Fine Gael leader.
“So it has to be at scale, it has to meet the scale of the challenge. Secondly, it does need to be done quickly.”
Green Party leader and climate action minister Eamon Ryan said the Cabinet had “hit the ground running”.
“I think there is a very good working relationship already between the three parties,” he said.
“The Cabinet is working effectively, we have to make a quick and collective start on leading the country out of a very difficult situation.”
Meanwhile, Mr Martin has insisted he will lead a “Government for the entire country” amid criticism about the geographic make-up of his Cabinet.
He defended the process of appointing ministers after his party’s deputy leader, Dara Calleary, expressed anger and disappointment at being overlooked for a senior position.
“We are a Government for the entire country and that’s a very important point,” the Fianna Fáil leader told a news conference.
Mayo TD Mr Calleary was appointed Government chief whip by Mr Martin following the formation of the historic Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael/Green Party coalition administration on Saturday. He will sit at Cabinet, but does not have a vote.
Some voters and political activists in the west of Ireland have portrayed it as a snub and claim it is evidence of the west being overlooked when it came to Cabinet positions.
While Galway West TD Hildegarde Naughton has been appointed as a super junior minister in the coalition, none of the senior jobs went to anyone from the west of the country.
The new Government has also faced criticism over the gender make-up of the Cabinet, with only four full ministerial roles occupied by women.
The three parties are set to face further scrutiny on gender and geography later in the week when they appoint several non-Cabinet ministers of state.
Mr Martin was pressed on these issues after the first full meeting of Cabinet yesterday.
On Mr Calleary, he insisted chief whip was a “very important position”, particularly as there were three parties to manage in the new Government.
“It is very difficult and I think there will be quite a number of people who will be very, very disappointed that they didn’t make the Cabinet table,” said Mr Martin.
“And I know quite a number of people in the party who will be upset by that but we have a limited choice, each party leader has a limited number to appoint, and calls have to be made.
“Unfortunately every time a Cabinet is appointed there will be disappointment.”
Fine Gael has also faced claims of ignoring the west after former minister Michael Ring, a TD for Mayo, was not reappointed to a Cabinet post.
Mr Varadkar insisted that all ministers must have a nationwide focus.
“All ministers have a national remit,” he said. “Any minister whose major focus is their own constituency or their own region is actually neglecting most of the country, so ministers must have a national remit and that’s the way I would certainly expect al ministers to think.”
Earlier yesterday, Mr Calleary said Saturday’s conversation with Mr Martin was “incredibly difficult”.
“It wasn’t the weekend I expected,” he told Midwest Radio. “There weren’t any other jobs on the table offered to me.
“We had a very difficult conversation and I told him I was disappointed.
“I had hoped to lead a department, that has always been my ambition and it is still my ambition today, and it will happen, it will absolutely happen.”
The Fianna Fáil stalwart said he plans to make the most of the job he has been given and be a “loud voice” for the west of Ireland at Cabinet.
Mr Calleary said he had been “blown away” by the messages of support from constituents since Saturday.
He acknowledged there is a lot of anger in the west.
“I hear that anger, I understand that anger, I am going to take that anger on and turn it into action,” he said.
“I am going to take that anger on and let it drive me on around the Cabinet table to turn that into action.
“I was that angry person yesterday and I am going to dust it down and make the most of this.”
New Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said a post-lockdown stimulus package will be key to economic recovery. Mary Corcoran reports