The Government must stop blaming Fianna Fáil for the rural crime wave, Micheál Martin has said.
The Fianna Fáil leader was responding to statements from Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, that the current spate of crime in rural Ireland was the result of his party's management of the public finances over more than a decade.
Mr Martin said the Government had been in office for four-and-a-half years and it was past time that they took responsibility for their own decisions on policing and other issues.
"It is high time this Government stopped blaming others and lived with the consequences of their own actions and their failures to act," he said.
Mr Martin acknowledged that his party had "made errors" over its years in government. But he argued that Fianna Fáil did "two-thirds of the heavy lifting," with economic cutbacks totalling some €6bn, before leaving office in February 2011.
"It has not often acknowledged that this current Government inherited a recovery plan with which they stuck pretty diligently. By contrast, the initiatives they framed themselves - such as Irish Water or efforts to deal with homelessness - have been at best extremely poor," he told the Irish Independent.
Mr Martin acknowledged that the Irish economy is recovering - but said too many regions and people were excluded.
"It is at best a two-tiered recovery, with the greater Dublin area accounting for 40pc of Ireland's GDP - an inordinate amount when compared with capitals elsewhere. We need a fairer recovery," the Cork TD argued.
Speaking ahead of his party's pre-Dáil think-in today, Mr Martin said he was not unduly troubled by Fianna Fáil being halted in opinion polls at below 20pc and close to its vote in the February 2011 general election meltdown.
He said the May 2014 local elections saw the party five points ahead of its regular opinion poll showings, while polls months ahead of the last general election gave one-third more to Labour than its actual vote.
"We're looking at this general election as 40 separate constituency contests, with a good choice of candidates and a big focus on transfers," he said, pointing to the general fragmentation of the vote and an expected huge field of independent candidates next time around.
Mr Martin was confident that his party would achieve the mandatory 30pc threshold of women candidates in the general election. He said the party supported this requirement, which is backed up by a loss of state funding for parties that fail to meet the quota.
The Fianna Fáil leader cited Norma Moriarty in Kerry; Margaret Murphy O'Mahony in Cork South West; Lisa Chambers in Mayo; Deirdre Heney in Dublin Bay North; and Mary White in Dublin Rathdown as among a large number of women candidates who will make an impact for the party.
He said there were 10 selection conventions left to be held and the constituency selection committee was continuing its work of adding candidates to the ticket.
Mr Martin also argued that the party's front bench was increasingly successful on taking the Government to task. Research by the party's environment spokesman, Barry Cowen, had shown that the scale of the homelessness problem was much greater than previously thought.
"Billy Kelleher continues his work on health policy while Michael McGrath is every active on financial policies. We have a committed team which will continue to scrutinise government," he added.