Now Kenny and Martin battle for FF vote 'loaned' to Coalition
Enda Kenny and Micheal Martin will take the gloves off this week in an all-out battle to win the support of former Fianna Fail voters who 'loaned' their vote to Fine Gael and Labour in the last election.
The Taoiseach, Mr Kenny, will today deliver a stark warning about the state of the international economy and will urge such voters to "move forward" and not "backwards". But the Fianna Fail leader, Mr Martin, yesterday told the Sunday Independent it was "clear" the trust of voters who had loaned their vote to the Coalition in 2011 had been "abused and broken".
This key 25pc of the electorate, who had voted for Fianna Fail in 2007, abandoned the party five years later and swept the Coalition to power.
But with Fianna Fail now delivering a sustained challenge in this campaign, the Government has decided to target Mr Martin. Fine Gael sources said the FF leader would be portrayed as a "slick salesman selling a failed product" and his record in government would be attacked.
Yesterday, however, Mr Martin said: "In 2011, a lot of people decided to trust Fine Gael and Labour and responded to Phil Hogan's request for a 'loan' of their vote. The people who loaned their vote in trust were not voting for chaos in our health services, a two-tier recovery or moving our Republic towards a socially divisive US-style tax system, but that is what an increasingly right-wing Fine Gael is doing to our country.
"All across the country I am meeting people who didn't vote for us last time and are now thinking about coming back to us now that they see what Fine Gael and Labour are doing to the country. Our job between now and election day is to engage with these people and demonstrate to them that we understand the problems facing the country, and we have a solid, fair and independently costed plan to deal with them."
But Mr Kenny will tell FG's campaign launch that the outcome of the election will decide whether Ireland moves forward or backwards. He will refer to a Chinese economy in a "turbulent and uncertain transition"; growing instability in the Middle East; the "unprecedented challenge" of migration into Europe; and uncertainty over Britain's future inside the EU.
Mr Kenny will say if Ireland were to follow the path of Portugal or Greece with political instability, the result would be higher government borrowing and unemployment.
Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald, meanwhile, became annoyed yesterday when asked whether 'good republican' and tax-cheat Thomas 'Slab' Murphy would vote for Gerry Adams in the election.