Fianna Fail pledges to ‘do a better job’ with public finances

Fianna Fail has pledged to “do a better job” with public finances, claiming the party prevented damage to the economy from Fine Gael’s “regressive and unsustainable” tax policies.

On the second day of the party’s election campaign, Fianna Fail also accused Fine Gael of being good at spending money but not “getting value for money”.

The party’s finance spokesman Michael McGrath said Fianna Fail is taking a responsible and cautious approach to the Irish economy, claiming this has annoyed its rivals in Fine Gael.

“When you look at the stinging criticisms, not just from Fianna Fail but from the independent watchdog Fiscal Advisory Council, they have been highly critical of Fine Gael’s spending record in recent times, the overruns in Department of Health and the HSE and other departments as well,” he said.

Dail parliament: state of the parties at dissolution
Dail parliament: state of the parties at dissolution

“I think it annoys Fine Gael that Fianna Fail is taking a very responsible, cautious and prudent approach to the Irish economy.

“They would rather it were different.

“Fianna Fail will manage the Irish economy responsibly and do a better job at the public finances than Fine Gael have been doing.”

Speaking from Fianna Fail’s election headquarters in Dublin, Mr McGrath said the party’s housing proposals will be directly linked to its economic proposals.

“It’s also essential we put a stop to the growing record of massive delays and overspending in the largest capital projects in the state,” he added.

“I know and understand that Fine Gael has decided to go negative in this campaign and it’s claimed that only it can be trusted with the economy.

“We reject this utterly.

“I don’t think we should be distracted by this sort of politics, but it is worth saying something.

“Over the last four years, not only did we support prudent budgets, we actually stopped the damage which would have resulted from Fine Gael’s regressive and unsustainable tax policies.”

Fianna Fail’s Brexit spokeswoman Lisa Chambers said it was unfortunate she had to reply to what she described as “a very negative and cynical” use of Brexit by Fine Gael only two days into the election campaign.

“No country in Europe has ever seen something like the positive role which the largest party in opposition has played on this issue,” she added.

“It is simply unprecedented.

“We started discussing Brexit earlier than any other party. I’m pointing to specific actions that will be required.

“In 2016, we were the only party to mention the possibility of Brexit during the campaign and our leader Micheal Martin set out an approach to Brexit well before the referendum was held.

“Our analysis and core strategy has been consistently validated by events.”

She said Fianna Fail rejects the attempt by the Tory Party to secure benefits of the single market without accepting its obligations.

Ms Chambers said the current culture within government in promoting Ireland in the British market must be changed to one that is more “extensive, active and far-reaching”.

She added: “Their statement that we cannot be trusted to negotiate on Brexit is a sad reflection of what we saw again yesterday. Leo Varadkar will play politics with any issue if he thinks it will win him votes.”

Mr McGrath claimed that the Government has been “consistently underestimating” the amount of money needed to maintain the existing level of services for Irish people.

“Our approach will be as it has been at every point in the last decade, and if elected to government we will propose budgets which are sustainable and responsible,” he continued.

“We need to ensure that our economy is also balanced and focused on SMEs who are very ambitious and employ up to one million people across our country.

“To prepare for a possible international downturn in the future, we believe that the rainy day fund is an essential part of fiscal policy and indeed needs to be expanded.”

He said there will need to be movement in relation to income tax, adding that Fianna Fail will have a tax package but that the overall priority remains on spending and investment.

However, he refused to give further details.

“We believe that the emphasis will even be further on investment on public services at the end of the day. We are not going to be precise because we are working through the detail of that, making sure that everything is completely assessed comprehensively,” he added.

Mr McGrath also did not rule out holding a referendum on insurance, adding that the industry has to be held to account.

He also accused the Government of “washing their hands” of the issue.