Saturday 24 February 2018

Kenny: election will be referendum on recovery

Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaks at a press briefing during the Fine Gael ard fheis in City West Photo: Ken Rockwell
Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaks at a press briefing during the Fine Gael ard fheis in City West Photo: Ken Rockwell

Kevin Doyle and Philip Ryan

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said the election will not be a choice between political parties but a referendum on the economic recovery.

The Fine Gael leader told up to 3,000 supporters at the party ard fheis that in between "all the white noise of the election, there is really only one question: Do you want the recovery, the recovery you have worked for, suffered for, and made so much personal sacrifice for, to continue? Or do you want to put it at risk?

"That's the only question you will be asked. That's the only question you will answer," Mr Kenny said.

He blamed Fianna Fail for introducing the Universal Social Charge (USC) and cutting the minimum wage but made no reference to Sinn Fein during his speech to the assembled delegates.

Addressing the television audience, Mr Kenny said the choice facing the electorate is "as stark as it is clear".

"I know that, for many people watching tonight, economic statistics mean very little.

"Too many people do not yet see, and do not yet feel, the benefits of a recovering economy in their own daily lives," he said.

"Fine Gael's long-term plan to keep the recovery going, to keep the economy going, is aimed at improving the lives of all our people, our hospitals and healthcare, our housing, our schools, our childcare, safer communities, the chance to work at home, live at home."

The Taoiseach promised "a strong economy delivering work that pays" and said he will cut the maximum tax rate for middle income families from 52pc to 44pc, giving a working family earning €45,000 per year a boost in income of over €1,750 per year.

"Altogether, our plan will provide the resources to hire an additional 10,000 gardaí, teachers, doctors, nurses and other front-line staff by 2021."

He admitted that Fine Gael hadn't achieved everything it had wanted in Government but said they "defied the naysayers to revive the economy, banish the Troika, exit the bailout, get Ireland back in the international markets and get our people back to work".

Mr Kenny concluded his speech saying: "In this the centenary of the Rising, we can say that of Ireland, our best and brightest days, are still uncounted, still to be unwrapped.

"We can say that the dream of our nation's heart has yet to be fulfilled. And it is you, we, each of us, all of us who will be those necessary dreamers."

Asked by the Sunday Independent before his speech if Fine Gael will do a coalition deal with independents if they can't make 80 seats with the Labour arty, Mr Kenny said that no discussions with independent members have taken place.

"Let me confirm for you. There is no discussion taking place between Fine Gael and any independents... For us it's about saying to people, it's about asking for your trust and your support in keeping Fine Gael and Labour in government," Mr Kenny said.

But the Mayo politician refused to rule out working with certain independents such as Tipperary TD Michael Lowry.

"I am not speculating beyond putting Fine Gael and Labour before the people to ask them for their support and their trust. I never presume to discuss the outcomes of elections."

However, sources told the Sunday Independent that "understandings have developed" between Fine Gael and a small number of non-party TDs.

"You don't have to sit down in an office. There is plenty of communications that happen in the corridors of Leinster House, the bar and chamber," said a well-placed source.

Mr Lowry said he has "no formal or informal arrangements with anybody" at this stage but he is open to discussions after polling day.

"When the election is over I'll assess my position at that stage," the former Fine Gael minister said.

Sunday Independent

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