Most Creighton candidates oppose abortion
Just five of the candidates standing for Lucinda Creighton's Renua Ireland have publicly backed changes to the Constitution on abortion.
Renua grew out of a revolt by key Fine Gael figures in July 2013 against changes to the law on abortion. But since the new party was launched last March, Ms Creighton and her colleagues have carefully avoided taking a stance on the matter, saying it was among a series of issues best left to personal conscience. Officials last night also said that such an emotive issue was best not dealt with at election time.
The five candidates who declared their support for some kind of change were: Patrick McKee of Carlow-Kilkenny; Milo Power of Waterford; Frank Cronin of Dún Laoghaire; Anne Farrell of Galway-Roscommon; and Michael Gargan of Dublin South Central.
The launch of the party's manifesto yesterday also sparked the first row between parties over the impact of proposed tax changes. Ms Creighton defended Renua's proposed single 23pc tax rate - and rejected Fine Gael claims that it would mean low-paid workers would end up paying more tax. The party leader also said she would publish before polling day its "red line" issues, publicly stating the price of support for any future coalition government.
On the abortion issue, Mr Cronin said he understood it was a very difficult issue and he respected all views. "I favour change to face the reality of life as it is. But I think we should have an open debate on the matter," Mr Cronin told the Irish Independent.
Defending the proposed 23pc flat tax rate, the former EU affairs junior minister said it would "promote work and fairness" while simplifying the tax system.
But Fine Gael pointed to Dáil answers given by Finance Minister Michael Noonan last October, when he was asked about the potential impact of the flat rate on low-paid workers earning €30,000 or less.
Mr Noonan cited Revenue Commissioner data indicating workers in this category could see their share of the total tax bill grow from 4pc to over 20pc.
But a Renua Ireland spokesman last night said that this calculation took no regard of the so-called "graduated basic income payment", which comes with the proposal and is designed to protect low-paid workers.
This would give everyone a basic income payment up to a maximum of €3,050 per year.
"Basically, Fine Gael is comparing apples and oranges here," the Renua official said.
Other eye-catching tax proposals include:
- Replacing road tax with a fuel levy, with exemptions for hauliers and public transport;
- Abolition of other secondary charges such as the TV licence;
- A better deal for self-employed workers, giving them the PAYE tax credit;
- A radical reduction of tax shelters and tax credits;
- Total overhaul of Irish Water, abolition of the €100 grant and charges based on metered use.
Renua also wants a crime crackdown via a mandatory life sentence for three-time repeat offenders committing very serious crimes.
The party's deputy leader, Wicklow TD Billy Timmins, said it would ask the Law Reform Commission to study the issue and recommend which categories of offence should apply.
"We need to defend people who are suffering from a growing problem of crime due to a lack of respect for the law," said Mr Timmins.