Martin: Manifesto is not a throwback to mistakes of past
Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin has denied he is repeating the mistakes of the past despite pledging a series of sweeteners in the party's General Election manifesto.
Mr Martin said the manifesto is not a throwback to 2007, adding that Fianna Fáil is adopting a far more "prudent" approach to tax cuts and spending than the other main political parties.
Among the key measures in the manifesto are the replacement of Irish Water with a new slimmed-down agency, the abolition of prescription charges and a €30 weekly increase in the old age pension.
The party is placing a significant emphasis on childcare and has pledged to introduce a €2,000 childcare support credit for parents, extending maternity leave by four weeks, as well as increasing child allowance by €10 per month.
It is proposed that Universal Social Charge (USC) - introduced by Fianna Fáil during the economic crisis - will be scrapped by 2021 for those earning up to €80,000. And the party says it will hire more doctors and nurses and put more gardaí on the street.
A new savings scheme for first-time buyers is also included in the manifesto, which was launched by the party in Dublin city yesterday.
Asked whether he was repeating the same mistakes of the past, Mr Martin said his party's manifesto is independently-costed and represents a "prudent and affordable plan".
"We've taken our blame and we've acknowledged we got things wrong," he said.
But the launch was once again overshadowed by questions over whether Mr Martin would be willing to lead his party into a coalition with Fine Gael. On at least six occasions, Mr Martin refused to categorically rule out such a scenario, as well as the option of supporting Fine Gael in a minority government.
"This is getting to the ridiculous in my view in terms of hypothetical sort of questions, you can ask 100 hypothetical questions. I'm telling you where Fianna Fáil want to be - we want to be the lead party in the next government," the Cork South Central TD told reporters.
"I'm not going any further because this is a campaign in which there is a real choice on issues in the political parties and I think the real choice needs to be issues," he added.
Mr Martin also laughed off suggestions that he could end up serving as Taoiseach with Labour Party deputy leader Alan Kelly as his Tánaiste.
"I just look at the strained version of Joan Burton every day and it's a very difficult proposition," he said.
And he said that members of the Cabinet that oversaw the economic collapse will be considered for ministerial positions again if Fianna Fáil is in government.
Meanwhile, Mr Martin hit out at "election slogans" which make calls for changes to the country's abortion laws.
He said such slogans are not an "appropriate mechanism" to deal with the divisive issue of the Eighth Amendment.
Mr Martin added that his TDs will be given a free vote on any changes to the abortion laws, adding that his party believes in "freedom of conscience".
Bitter row for Roscommon FF candidates
Strokestown councillor Eugene Murphy was selected as the single candidate at the party convention in December.
He was left "upset and disappointed" after former GAA star Shane Curran was added to the party ticket last week.
Mr Curran's camp had hoped the candidates would agree to divide the constituency leaving Athlone and south Roscommon to Curran while the Murphy camp focused on Boyle and Roscommon town. However, sources close to Mr Murphy insist that he will not agree to any such pact.
Mr Murphy told the Irish Independent he was "not happy" that Mr Curran had been added to the ticket and criticised party headquarters for failing to keep him informed of plans.
"I was the only candidate selected by the delegates. I don't have anything against Shane Curran but the grassroots made their decision," he said.
While the councillor says he will suggest his running mate for second preferences, his camp has refused to do so. He also insisted he would be covering the entire county while canvassing.
When asked to comment on the issue, Mr Curran said: "There's no conflict in my camp. Full of enthusiasm."