Fine Gael accuses rivals of ambushing ‘change’ campaign

Fine Gael deputy leader Simon Coveney has accused opponents of “ambushing and abusing” the word “change” throughout the General Election campaign.

In direct criticism of Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail, the Tanaiste claimed that voters have been promised levels of spending and policies that would “cripple” the economy.

Mr Coveney used a press conference to attack Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail days before the electorate go to the polls.

He claimed his party’s two biggest rivals would go “wild on the state’s credit card” if elected.

Acknowledging Fine Gael’s problems around housing and healthcare, he appealed to voters saying he hears people’s anxiety and frustration.

“I would appeal to those casting their votes on Saturday to think of how far we have travelled since the days of hundreds of thousands of job losses, a property crash, an international bailout and mass emigration of our young people – breaking many businesses and families,” he added.

“When I look at the last nine years, I see change – real change – driven by the Irish people themselves and Fine Gael in government doing what was right for the country.”

Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein’s campaigns have been driven by calls for change in government as the country deals with a housing and health crisis.

Mr Coveney claimed their promises have “no regard” to the consequences.

“It is based on a falsehood – populism in the short term with a disregard for the future,” he added.

“Some parties are promising you everything – to go wild on the state’s credit card, ignore the bill, with interest, that will come in the post. Their attitude is that someone else will pay for it.

“The brand of politics practised by Sinn Fein is built on discontent and division – feeding and encouraging undercurrents of anger. There is always a ‘them and us’ in Sinn Fein politics.”

The Tanaiste added that throughout the campaign, he has attempted to highlight the risks and dangers in the year ahead with Brexit trade talks.

“Yesterday Boris Johnson put the UK on a collision course with the EU and, mark my words, the weeks ahead are going to be extremely turbulent for Ireland,” he added.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said Fianna Fail’s position on tax and economy was “a straight re-run of their greatest flops of the past”.

Paschal Donohoe
Paschal Donohoe (Brian Lawless/PA)

“Just look at the centrepiece of their housing policy – their resurrection of the SSIA (special savings incentive allowance), and like his predecessors announced on the eve of the 2002 general election, it’s populist, it’s reckless and irresponsible,” Mr Donohoe added.

“It is a recipe for fewer homes built and a recipe for driving up the price of those loans in the future.

“It could wreak havoc on our housing markets but this itself is nothing compared to their proposed changes in capital gains tax costing 267 million euro, only benefiting those who can make those transactions in the first place.

“What Fianna Fail don’t mention is that a significant portion of these taxes derive from property transactions.”

Mr Coveney pledged to spend the next few days highlighting and exposing the “deep flaws” of other parties, adding that the vote would be a “very tight contest”.

He was challenged on his party’s emphasis on how they handled Brexit and how this has failed to resonate with the public.

The Taniste said: “I think people are just punch drunk with Brexit, we’ve been talking about it so much over the last two years that people want to talk about other things that have a more immediate impact on their lives.”

Fianna Fail’s spokesman on Education Thomas Byrne and spokeswoman on Equality, Immigration and Integration Fiona O’Loughlin (PA)

Meanwhile, Fianna Fail’s spokeswoman on Equality, Immigration and Integration Fiona O’Loughlin said the party is taking nothing for granted in the final days of their election campaign.

Fianna Fail has seen a boost in recent weeks and are set to capture 23% of the popular vote, according to the latest survey published on Monday evening.

Ms O’Loughlin hit out Sinn Fein’s manifesto pledges, describing them as “fairy-tale”.

“Their policies are anti-business, they are anti-agriculture, they are completely uncosted, they make for fantasy fairy-tale,” she said.

The party’s education spokesman Thomas Byrne said that polls tend to get Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein wrong.

He added: “One of the things that has happened over the last number of weeks is that there has been massive focus on politics, on process, we want to see a debate on where we see the country and on all over policies and plans.

“If you look at the Sinn Fein manifesto, the 1.3 billion euro for new capital expenditure, they are promising trains and Luas to every constituency that they are targeting.

“There are large parts of it not costed.

“Sinn Fein have promised everything to everyone and we all know that cannot be done. We have committed to what we can do with the resources available.”

“If you want Fianna Fail in government and want Fine Gael out of government and change, then you need to vote Fianna Fail.

“That message is resonating around the country.”

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