Tuesday 27 September 2016

Fianna Fáil to fight election on better public services

Published 18/01/2016 | 02:30

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin with party members Terry Leyden, Sean Fleming, Jennifer Cuffe, Lorraine Clifford-Lee and Mary Butler after delivering his address at the close of the 77th Fianna Fáil Árd Fheis in the CityWest Hotel, Dublin. Photo: Laura Hutton/Collins Photo Agency
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin with party members Terry Leyden, Sean Fleming, Jennifer Cuffe, Lorraine Clifford-Lee and Mary Butler after delivering his address at the close of the 77th Fianna Fáil Árd Fheis in the CityWest Hotel, Dublin. Photo: Laura Hutton/Collins Photo Agency

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has promised to give priority to providing better public services rather than giving tax cuts, if he gets to lead the next government.

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Speaking after the party's Árd Fheis, Mr Martin argued that investing in public services, like health, housing and education, would be the major priority for his party. He again criticised the Taoiseach for promising "US-style taxes" which could only lead to greater poverty and cuts in services for the most vulnerable.

"We want to put a choice before the people that a Fianna Fáil-led government will deliver fairness but also deliver better public services," Mr Martin said.

"The Fine Gael-led government of the last five years has led to a decimation of public services," added Mr Martin.

Mr Martin had used his centre-piece speech to party delegates to argue that Fine Gael had not delivered a fair distribution of wealth. He said the Government had never acknowledged that the template for economic recovery had been framed by the late Finance Minister, Brian Lenihan, whose work they had at times vilified.

Mr Martin insisted that the Government and sections of the media tried to portray the election outcome as a foregone conclusion but it was for the people to decide on polling day.

Former Gaeltacht Minister Éamon Ó Cuív, addressing delegates, talked up the party's potential to win many seats in the General Election and said they were not "in damage limitation" mode.

The mood at the event at Citywest was upbeat and many delegates said they were ready to campaign vigorously in the election, expected next month. But delegates had mixed views on the party leader's insistence on "no coalition" with either Fine Gael or Sinn Féin.

But Fine Gael hit back, with Jobs Minster Richard Bruton countering that his party's plan to cut taxes will actually bring in more revenue. "We will abolish the USC because it's a bad tax," Mr Bruton argued.

The minister said the USC was framed as a "temporary tax" and abolishing it was part of the Government focus to create jobs.

"We need to build on the 135,000 people we have already back at work, see more people working, more pay packets coming in so we can invest in quality services for the future," he said.

Labour also stepped up its campaigning by launching its 'Standing Up for Working Families' campaign. Tánaiste Joan Burton also pledged cuts to the USC.

"We want to put more money in their pockets by reducing USC. Secondly, we want to improve public services and make those services more affordable," she added.

Sinn Féin's enterprise spokesman, Peadar Tóibín, argued that European taxes were necessary for European standards of services like roads, railways and broadband.

Communications Minister Alex White said yesterday that voters needed to weigh up how much influence his party have had over Fine Gael in the past five years. He said that when it came to negotiating tax and spending issues, the Labour Party worked well with Enda Kenny.

"You'll see that there was a compromise somewhere in the middle and I would even argue that it was somewhere closer to the position that we had rather than the position held by our colleagues in government," he said.

Mr White said the proof was what Labour had delivered.

Irish Independent

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