Saturday 16 December 2017

The parties & policy

Anti-Austerity Alliance candidate Ruth Coppinger Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Anti-Austerity Alliance candidate Ruth Coppinger Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Renua Ireland's Eddie Hobbs Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin Newsdesk Newsdesk

The Labour Party has promised parents they will pay just €4.25-an-hour (€170 per week) for childcare if the party is elected to government.

Tánaiste Joan Burton said "no one should be barred from work because childcare is too expensive" as she unveiled the party's ultimate aim to reduce childcare costs to €2-an-hour by 2021.

"As a woman leader, I feel most passionately about children's rights and childcare and getting people to work," Ms Burton said at the launch of Labour's childcare plans yesterday.

The party also pledged to give mothers and fathers three months of shared parental leave, as Ms Burton said "sometimes we forget men are parents too". She also pledged to provide extra funding for training childcare workers.

The Labour leader announced plans to invest €200m in 'Key regional growth centres' at the Irish Farmers' Association headquarters. The plan aims to increase employment in regional areas, alongside proposals to invest in agricultural training, transport links and infrastructure.

Anti-Austerity Alliance

The Anti-Austerity Alliance has accused Tánaiste Joan Burton of being responsible for a reported 87pc increase in homelessness by cutting some social welfare benefits.

Candidiate Ruth Coppinger hit out at the minister for social protection by claiming the rise in homelessness was due to decreases in rent and lone parent allowance. She maintained the Government parties have tried to shift the debate away from the housing crisis during the campaign by focusing on the so-called fiscal space .

"They don't want to discuss the housing crisis but it is by the far the main issue which this election should be about," she said. "Despite being in the middle of a housing crisis, with those in receipt of rent allowance already struggling to keep a roof over the heads because of sky-rocketing rents, she decides to cut the Lone Parent Payment and force one of the poorest sections of society into further poverty."

Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin will increase the minimum wage to €9.65 per hour and introduce legislation to tackle low-hour contracts if in government, it has pledged.

The party's jobs spokesman, Peadar Tóibín, yesterday hit out at the finding of a study showing that one in five workers are now classified as low-paid.

The Meath West TD accused Fine Gael and Labour of causing a "proliferation of unpaid internships and low-hours contracts".

He said that under the outgoing Coalition, 200,000 low-paid workers had been hit with pay cuts as a result of the ending of the Sunday premium.

"Insecure and precarious work is now becoming the norm amongst thousands of families in this State.

"The human effect of this has been pressure on workers and their families, who are unable to plan childcare and their finances from week to week," Mr Tóibín said.

"This is not business as usual. The over-concentration of wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer is intensifying in our generation and it is openly being facilitated by the Fine Gael and Labour Government."

Sinn Féin will increase the minimum wage by 50c to €9.65 if in government and will introduce a 'living wage'.

Renua Ireland

Economist Eddie Hobbs has warned that if reform parties such as Renua are wiped out in the election, it will mean that voters are content with sending "the village idiot" back to the Dáil.

Mr Hobbs, Renua president and a key advisor to the new political party, said lessons should be learned from the fact that there have been seven major economic failures since the foundation of the State.

He said Ireland now had an historic chance to move away from the discredited system of clientism, where some TDs behave like "sexed-up county councillors" to look after their own voters.

Mr Hobbs said: "Quite obviously, when any political party starts off, and I have said this repeatedly, the challenges are absolutely staggering.

"To get it up and running, you don't get any state support at all.

"You are basically working on fumes at the start.

"But if it doesn't work, then what is happening is that the Irish people are saying they are quite happy - that they want to continue with our addiction to the disease of clientism."

Social Democrats

Local businesses could generate up to 100,000 new jobs, Stephen Donnelly of the Social Democrats has said.

The Wicklow TD said too much government attention went to the multinational companies, despite the fact that three out of four workers in the private sector worked for small enterprises and 99pc of the country's 185,000 businesses fell into the small firms category.

The joint leader of the Social Democrats said it was time to help small businesses in practical ways.

His party's proposals include cutting administrative red tape by simplifying the demands being made on small firms by Government.

The Social Democrats also want to give the same tax benefits to self-employed people as to PAYE workers.

Extending the same welfare benefits to the self-employed as full-time employees is one of the fledgling party's proposals.

Mr Donnelly said it was too early in the campaign to discuss who his party might support in any coalition situation. He added that the party may outline "red-line issues" on potential government support later.

The Green Party

Cheaper public transport for students, the introduction of a 40kph speed limit in the city centre, and three rapid bus corridors are among the key measures from the Green Party to reduce traffic gridlock in the capital.

Launching its Dublin Transport plan, party leader Eamon Ryan also said that two thirds of all capital investment in transport would go towards buses, cycling and walking infrastructure, and one third for roads, a reversal of the Government's current transport spending policy.

The party also proposes spending €582m on three bus rapid transport (BRT) routes in the city. These would be at Blanchardstown to UCD, Clongriffin to Tallaght and Swords to the city centre. Buses on these routes would be given priority at traffic junctions.

It also wants to double the number of Dublin Bikes, pedestrianise streets including the northside of Parnell Square and introduce a 30kph speed limit in residential areas and a 40kph limit in the city centre.

Party leader Eamon Ryan said that transport issues in the city were going to become "critical" in the next five years.

"As the economy lifts and car sales increase, the M50 and city is going to gridlock," he said. "We do not have the major big public transport projects ready to provide the alternative.

"One of the main failings of the last government was stopping Metro North, same with the DART Interconnector and other Luas projects."

Irish Independent

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