Public Policy Bulletin, 14 September 2020

Sep 14, 2020

In this week’s Public Policy news, read how Ireland has officially entered recession, how the new National Waste Action Plan for a Circular economy intends to move the focus from disposal to production, about two support schemes now available for Northern Ireland businesses, and how the EU plans to make a more resilient green and digital future Europe.

Ireland enters recession following biggest quarterly drop ever recorded

The latest quarterly national accounts released by the Central Statistics Office last week showed that Ireland’s economy has officially entered recession. Ireland’s GDP has contracted by 6.1 percent during the second quarter of 2020. A recession is defined as the GDP contracting two quarters in a row.

Consumer spending decreased by 19.6 percent, while industry and government spending increased by 7.5 percent.  Overall economic activity was partly offset by an increase of €37.8 billion in net exports of goods and services in Q2. The following sectors contracted significantly:

  • Construction: 38.3 percent
  • Distribution, transport, hotels and restaurants: 30.3 percent
  • Agriculture, forestry and fishing: 60.6 percent
  • Arts and entertainment: 65.5 percent
  • Information and Communication: 1.5 percent

Minister Finance Paschal Donohoe reportedly stated that there has been a strong pick-up in the third quarter of this year, according to indicators available to Government, and that Ireland compares favourably against the UK, eurozone and the US, where GDP declined by considerably more in the same period.

Ireland publishes its Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy

The Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment this month published its Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy. The policy is part of a new National Waste Action Plan and aligns with the goals of the European Green Deal, which seeks to embed climate action in all strands of public policy.

The policy contains over 200 measures across various waste areas, including the Circular Economy, Plastics and Packaging and Green Public Procurement, and its goal is to move the focus away from waste disposal and look at resources more broadly to maximise their value rather than disposing of them. The plan is also summarised in infographics, which describe key actions and targets for both individuals and businesses.

Invest NI makes two new COVID-19 schemes available 

Minister for the Economy, Diane Dodds last week announced two new support schemes available to Northern Ireland businesses:

  1. £1million Digital Selling Capability Grant to help retailers and wholesalers better access consumer demand and grow online sales; and
  2. £5million Equity Investment Fund to help early stage and seed stage SMEs access finance.


Both schemes opened for applications on 9 September. They are operated by Invest Northern Ireland, which is developing several new initiatives to help companies in the new business environment post-COVID-19.

Kevin Holland, CEO of Invest NI, described SMEs as “the lifeblood of the Northern Ireland economy” and stated that the two new recovery schemes are “part of a range of solutions we are putting in place to help businesses progress recovery plans, strengthen supply chains, develop new products and access finance.”

More information on Business Supports available for Northern Ireland can be found on the Chartered Accountants Ireland COVID-19 Hub, updated regularly.

EU integrates strategic foresight into policymaking

The EU has published its strategy to integrate foresight into policymaking. The aim of the strategy is to help understand future challenges and opportunities, to identify major trends, explore alternative futures and design forward-looking policies to make Europe more resilient, green, digital and fair in the future.

I’s first annual report Strategic Foresight - Charting the course towards a more resilient Europe focuses on social and economic, geopolitical, green and digital resilience.

Read all our updates on our Public Policy web centre.