Martin sows seeds of division among opponents
IF only every day in politics could be as good as this... As he drifted off to sleep last night, Micheal Martin scarcely needed to reach for his calculator to count hoggets or ewes.
A successful early morning campaign launch in Dublin was followed by a warm reception on the streets of Galway city. Even the token angry punter couldn't spoil day two of Micheal's March.
The party faithful were out in force, there was no sign of the threatened open warfare in the City of the Tribes over whether it should be two or three on the ticket in Galway West, and the green tea arrived just when it was most needed.
He even had time to take a pop at Fine Gael and Labour over the "very fundamental differences" between them on major policy issues.
Mr Martin, who scored an impressive 44pc satisfaction in yesterday's Irish Independent/ Millward Brown Lansdowne poll, told reporters he believed Fine Gael and Labour had an obligation to tell the people exactly what their programme would be after the election, if they were to share power.
In a strategic move designed to highlight the gaps between the two main opposition parties, primarily on the economy, he also called on them not to be dishonest in dealing with the issue of a possible renegotiation of the bailout package.
But he declined to be drawn on exactly who Fianna Fail would be prepared to go into government with, other than to confirm that his party would support the implementation of stated FF policies.
"We've never said that we're joining forces with anybody. We've never said that to the people, as Labour and Fine Gael have. They've presented themselves on a joint basis on a number of occasions now. We haven't.
"We're focusing on what are the correct policies to support economic recovery. We'll support the correct policies that will support economic recovery, irrespective of where we find ourselves in the next Dail," he said.
He pointed out that while Fine Gael had agreed with budget cuts of €6bn, Labour were saying cuts of €4.5bn were sufficient. While Fine Gael had agreed an adjustment of €15bn was needed by 2014, Labour had said this could be deferred to 2016.
Fine Gael wanted to increase VAT, but Labour were pointing to the need to reduce VAT. Fine Gael wanted to reduce the numbers of public servants by 30,000; privatise the Health Service Executive (HSE); and dismantle FAS, but Labour disagreed with all of these proposals, he insisted.
"So, you can see there are four fundamental issues, pretty fundamental, in terms of tax, public expenditure and in terms of health initiatives between Labour and Fine Gael.
"I think they have an obligation to tell the Irish people; to spell out what the actual programme will be post the election in the event that they are going into government."
Mr Martin rejected a suggestion that it was "insane" to run three candidates in Galway West in a bid to retain the party's two seats in the five-seater.
He insisted he had no difficulty with Eamon O Cuiv, Frank Fahey and city mayor Michael Crowe going into the fray on February 25.
"The walkabout of the city centre went swimmingly until painter Tommy Houlihan got the Fianna Fail leader in his sights close to the Spanish Arch. He laid into him with a rant that could not be stopped.
"You've destroyed this country. Your party are a disgrace," he thundered. But it was over as quickly as it had started and Micheal was already on his way to more receptive voters.