Fianna Fail and Fine Gael unveil manifestos for General Election
Ireland’s two largest parties have unveiled their manifestos ahead of the General Election.
Fianna Fail and Fine Gael published their spending plans in Dublin within hours of each other on day 10 of the campaign.
Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar highlighted his party’s track record in the Brexit negotiations and on the economy as reasons to retain faith in his party come polling day on February 8.
He acknowledged more work was needed to tackle crises in the health and housing sectors but insisted his government had made inroads in addressing those problems.
“I meet people every day and I know the worry, frustration and concerns around the pace of progress in health and housing,” he said.
“Today we are laying out our plans to build on what has been done, with a particular focus on home ownership and universal healthcare.
“An improving economy and the careful management of our public finances, along with the sensitive stewardship of the upcoming Brexit trade negotiations, will enable us to drive that momentum and provide more houses, more hospital beds, more nurses and gardai, deliver climate action, and drive tax reform.
“We’ve been able to make good progress, but I know it’s not enough. I want us to do much more.”
Earlier, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin outlined what he described as an “ambitious, deliverable and sustainable” programme of policies.
He said it was time for delivery in government and an end to the “spin” he claimed characterised Fine Gael’s near-decade in power.
The parties outlined how they would use the 11 billion euro of financial resource predicted to be available to the next government over a five-year term.
“Ireland has many strengths, but we also face many challenges,” Mr Martin said.
“The biggest of these is to make sure we have a country that serves all of its people.”
Mr Martin, whose party sustained the previous minority Fine Gael government in power though a historic confidence and supply arrangement, was scathing about what his rivals had achieved in power.
“For Fine Gael in government, action plans are only ever about providing an excuse and never about actually tacking problems,” he said.
“It’s time to stop the endless cycle of spin, it’s time for a government which spends less time playing politics and is absolutely focused on delivering concrete action to tackle urgent problems.”
Fine Gael’s manifesto includes pledges to:
– Increase the point at which a single person pays the higher rate of income tax to 50,000 euro and to 100,000 euro for a couple
– Raise the Universal Social Charge income exemption threshold from 13,000 euro to 20,500 euro
– Create 200,000 jobs
– Provide free GP care to under 18s, free primary school books and more paid parental leave
– Increase the state pension by 25 euro a week over the next five years
– Recruit up to 700 gardai every year over the next five years
Fianna Fail says it will hold back 1.2 billion of the 11 billion euro pot and deploy a 4:1 investment-to-tax cuts ratio in spending the remaining 9.8 billion.
The party’s plans include pledges to:
– Increase the weekly childcare subsidy from 20 to 80 euro a week
– Reduce the capital gains tax rate from 33% to 25%
– Increase the state pension by five euro a week
– Abolish prescription charges
– Increase gardai numbers to 16,000
– Deliver 50,000 new affordable homes and directly build 50,000 new social housing units
– Take more than 100,000 patients off waiting lists with a 100 million euro investment in the National Treatment Purchase Fund
Two recent opinion polls put Fianna Fail ahead of Fine Gael for next month’s ballot for the Irish parliament.
Mr Varadkar has suggested he might consider working with Fianna Fail in government if next month’s election produces another inconclusive result.
However, Mr Martin has ruled out a “grand coalition” with his rivals after the election.
The four-year confidence and supply pact, between two parties founded from opposing sides of Ireland’s civil war of the 1920s, was struck following the 2016 general election.