Programme For Government 2020 – Sailing Blind?

The recent publication of the new Coalition Government’s agreed programme for government , called the ‘Programme for Government – Our Shared Future’, has left a lot of jaws stuct to the floor.

The document, so long touted as ‘imaginative and progressive’, fell far short. It was, however, full of wishfull thinking with more reviews promised than you would get at the Cork International Film festival. In its 126 pages, the smell of procrastination is strong. We see ‘review ‘ mentioned 73 times, ‘consider’ 52 times and ‘consideration’ 132 times. These are all non-commitals and a way to avoid taking action pending a long fingered review. What we wanted was ‘deliver’ and ‘implement’ rather than never ending reviews. The transfer of this ambition to actual delivery is the critical task that faces the government, in particular within the Covid 19 constraints. Covid 19, however offers us an opportunity to deal with many issues that would othewise get long fingered.

If you don’t know where you are headed any road will take you there

Let’s just focus on the Waste related programme elements.


There are many reviews promised but little quantifiable targets or metrics ( the proverbial SMART goals) by which we, the voters, could review their performance. The emphasis here is on M-Measurable and T-Time bound. Overall, we welcome the policies on waste, recycling and the Circular Economy , which are well intentioned (see below for explanation of the SMART elements).

M – They are lacking measurable targets. Where are the results expected stated in volumes, % improvements, reductions, tonnages, savings etc?

T – They are not Time specific and fall far behind other European countries timeframes for reaching emission reductions. Without Metrics or timeframes it is not even a plan, but an aspiration. Let’s see years, months outlined. Specific dates would be a good way to inject urgency into making early progress.

S – Where are the specific financial incentives to encourage recycling, waste avoidance, reduction in waste volumes and waste generation? They receive a very brief mention. Contrast this withthe clarity in our 2003-2004 ZWAI policy where we advocated differential VAT rates for goods which are recyclable and goods which are not recyclable. Also between materials which are made from other recycled materials and those which are made from virgin raw materials. These are easy to state in a SMART way so lets hope we get more detail on Specific deliverables.

  1. It is good to see that single use plastics will be phased out, but Ireland has to do that anyway, to comply with the EU SUP Directive !
  2. In fact, most of the section on waste simply states what we would have to do in order to minimally comply with the EU policy on the Circular Economy.
  3. Meanwhile, in Ireland, increasing quantities of potentially recyclable materials are being transported daily as refuse derived fuel (RDF) or solid recovered fuel (SRF) to cement plants; while huge quantities of similar materials are burned in incinerators under “put-or-pay” financial contracts which have locked some cities into mass burning for 20 years!
  4. There seems to be no mention of these problems in the Programme! Without acknowledging that we have a problem we will not seek a solution, nor plan a specific set of measures to take us to this solution.
  5. The plan has no mention of phasing out Landfill or Incineration, which a functioning Circular Economy requires. We see no commitment to stop the building of new incinerators which hardly dovetails with the commitment to an ‘action plan’ on the Circular Economy.

We need things done not endless reviews and committees issuing reports with yet more recommendations.


The one glaring demand that was under consideration by the Government’s DCCAE Dept. and will not now be accelerated was the touted DRS (Deposit Return Scheme) for cans, bottles and plastic containers. Submissions were made in 2019, Eunomia Consultants appointed and feedback/advice solicited. But as yet no outcome?

Contrast this with our neighbour Scotland, who are just getting on with a nationwide DRS. It will be the first part of the UK to introduce a deposit return scheme for drinks containers,available across all of Scotland from 1 July 2022. (Contrast this firm delivery date with specific targets to our proposed ‘reviews’).  The DRS will make it easier for everyone to recycle their used bottles and cans, including all drinks sold in PET plastic, metal and glass.  When will we see it here?

Let’s hope that this feedback is taken on board and we get a more action oriented programme when the dust settles on the Ministerial scramble.

Water and Wastewater

Another concern to ZWAI is the waste of resources, in particular Water.

The Programme includes improved but very standard policies on water and wastewater, together with a commitment that Irish water will remain in public ownership.

  1. Water conservation is mentioned, but there is no mention of the need to prevent the waste of dissolved phosphorus and nitrogen in wastewater; instead of being conserved, these materials are simply discharged to rivers, lakes and the sea.
  2. There is no mention of rainwater harvesting, nor re-use of grey water.
  3. There is a brief mention of “Irish Water’s proposed approach to the Water Supply Project for the Eastern and Midlands Region”, which is a euphemism for the proposed 200 km pipeline to take 500 million litres of water daily from the River Shannon to Dublin; originally proposed by the Dublin local authorities, and now an Irish Water project.


SMART explained.

S – Specific

The ‘S’ defines exactly want you want to achieve and in what context.

M – Measurable

The “M” in SMART goals stands for measurable.It allows you to track the progress and performance. You need to choose the metrics to apply. What will be the outcome of success ? How will it be counted?

A – Attainable or Achievable

The “A” stands for achievable/attainable. It must be possible to do it within the Timeframe of the plan.

R – Realistic or Relevant

The “R” in SMART goals means being realistic or relevant. Your goals definitely need to be realistic as you cannot set goals that cannot be achieved in the timeframe. Be optimistic by all means, but make them achieveable.

T – Time Bound

SMART goal setting also needs to consider the timings as most goals are time bound. Setting a deadline is key to reaching your goal. Also, time constraints create a sense of urgency and determination to complete the work.