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Tougher sentences for knife crime among Cabinet memos

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee will bring a memo to Cabinet in relation to tougher sentences on knife crime.

Under planned amendments the maximum sentence for serious knife offences would increase from five to seven years.

Along with her colleague, Junior Minister James Browne, both are seeking more powers for gardaí to issue ASBOs or anti-social behaviour orders.

Minister McEntee is also expected to update colleagues on other measures her department is taking to tackle crime.

Patents referendum

The Cabinet is expected to agree to a postponement of the patents referendum when it meets later this morning.

A memo will be brought by Minister for Enterprise Peter Burke to outline the next steps in the process.

It was expected that the referendum would take place on 7 June, the same date as the local and European elections.

However, in recent days Government leaders have indicated that that they would rather it was postponed, citing concerns over the amount of time left to campaign on the issue.

It is understood the Cabinet will not be agreeing to a new date at today’s meeting.

The referendum is required to order to give effect to a decision by Ireland to opt in to the Unified Patent Court Agreement, which would harmonise patent rules across the European Union.

Seventeen countries across the EU have opted in to the UPC.

A constitutional referendum is needed to enable the transfer of jurisdictional powers from the Irish courts to the new international court.

Some have been critical of moves to delay the referendum.

Fianna Fáil’s Director for the Referendum, Senator Malcolm Byrne, said the UPC will “make life easier for Irish inventors and content creators and for small businesses who want to protect their ideas and products”.

He said that Minister Burke should insist on proceeding with the referendum to “fight for small business and inventors”.

United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) peacekeepers on patrol

Defence

Meanwhile, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin will seek Cabinet approval to increase, by 33, the number of Irish peacekeepers serving at UNIFIL in Lebanon.

He will also request that the mission is extended for another year from 30 May. The UN is expected to seek an extension of its own peace-keeping mandate in August.

The additional personnel is intended to enhance the overall security of the Irish battalion amid the heightened threat level in the region.

Their duties would include force protection, as well as increased convoy security.

The 123rd Infantry Battalion will conclude their six month deployment in May and will be replaced by the 124th infantry battalion in July, which would comprise the additional 33 personnel.

Health

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly will seek Cabinet approval to draft legislative amendments, to allow pharmacists to prescribe in certain circumstances.

Currently, those that can prescribe are doctors, dentists and some nurses with additional training.

An “expert taskforce on pharmacy” is working on recommendations around the introduction of prescribing by pharmacists within their scope of practice.

In the meantime, the Department of Health wants to draft amendments to lay the legislative groundwork.

The intention is to have an agreed basis for pharmacists prescribing in place before the end of the year.

Ireland has 330 intensive care unit (ICU) beds

Separately, the Minister Donnelly will inform Cabinet colleagues that there has been a 28% increase in critical care capacity during the lifetime of the Government.

It has increased from 258 ICU beds to 330. This has required approximately 770 additional staff.

Under the HSE’s National Service Plan 2024, a further 22 beds are scheduled to be delivered, bringing the total number to 352.

The plan seeks to deliver 458 ICU beds by 2031.

Legislative programme

The Government Chief Whip Hildegarde Naughton will seek cabinet approval for the publication of the summer legislation programme.

Overall, there are 29 bills for priority publication such as the access to cash bill, health information bill and residential tenancies bill, which will give tenants a right to first refusal when the property they are renting is put up for sale.

A total of 24 bills are scheduled for priority drafting.

Among them is the minimum sentence bill, which would give judges the power to set minimum sentences for murder and serious crime.

St Patrick’s Day

The Tánaiste will also inform Cabinet colleagues about Ireland’s S. Patrick’s Day events this year.

Some 994 events were attended in 94 cities and 45 countries by over 481,000 people, including 55 parades, 57 greenings, 187 business events and meetings and 144 Irish community events.

Finance meetings

Minister for Finance Michael McGrath and Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe will travel to Washington DC today for the Spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

Minister McGrath will meet with the IMF Managing Director, Kristalina Georgieva, and the President of the World Bank, Ajay Banga.


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