'Keeping USC could help fund NHS-style health service'
Social Democrats TD Stephen Donnelly has defended the controversial Universal Social Charge (USC), saying it could help fund a new NHS-style health service.
The Wicklow TD was speaking yesterday at the Social Democrat's manifesto launch where the party's candidates announced plans to reduce childcare costs, abolish water charges and reduce the cost of living.
"We are seeing what's happening in China, in the emerging markets, America and the UK, this is absolutely not the time for Fianna Fáil economics," Mr Donnelly said.
"We need to use the breathing space we have to invest, to get ready to back society and small businesses and to make sure we don't lose another decade the next time bad news comes Ireland's way.
"We would not erode the tax base; we would use that revenue to get us ready for the next macro shock that is coming from China or somewhere else. We would use the money to invest in healthcare, in education and to properly back Irish businesses so that they can succeed just as much as the multinational sector has."
Mr Donnelly said that funding for these plans could be provided through maintaining the current tax base and said that abolishing the USC would wipe €4bn to €5bn from the State coffers.
This is in contrast to Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour's policies, who all seek to get rid of the tax, which could make agreeing a programme for government difficult for the party.
TD Catherine Murphy said the Social Democrats would not be a "mud guard" if they decided to enter into a coalition, and would prioritise a social democratic vision.
"It's about the political philosophy and what we can become as a country rather than getting into power," Ms Murphy said. "Our guarantee is that we want a social democratic vision, it would want to change very fundamentally."
Ms Murphy said that nothing in the party's manifesto was set in stone.
"What we've set out in this is not a shopping list, it's a vision. There's more to be added.
"It's not as if you can look at things in isolation. There is a relationship between them," she said.
The Kildare North TD said getting half of her party's 14 candidates elected would be a "significant number".