Friday 23 February 2018

Fianna Fáil attack Varadkar over 'glittering launches' and burying bad news

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has come under fire for “glittering launches” and trying to bury bad news at the Fianna Fáil think-in.

Micheál Martin has used his party’s special gathering in Longford to take aim the new Cabinet, saying they are the first in a quarter of a century not to have a health strategy.

And he accused Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney of “running” out of the Department of Housing because he wasn’t able to fix it.

Mr Martin denied his party is gearing up for an election but admitted there could be one next year.

“The agenda for the months ahead is absolutely clear.  People are demanding action on housing and on health.

“They want an urgent and credible plan for dealing with Brexit.  They want a budget which is fair and helps those under pressure. They want action on essential investment,” he told the party’s TDs and senators.

He said Fianna Fáil, which is keeping Leo Varadkar in power by way of a ‘Confidence and Supply’ arrangement, needs “to aware of the approach of a government which is obsessed with political manoeuvring”.

“The media presentation of policies has become the absolute priority.  In every substantive area real or imagined initiatives are being trailed in a long-series of media briefings and launched in situations which limit scrutiny and that lack substance,” he said.

The Cork TD alleged there has been an attempt over the summer months “to bury bad news on busy news days”, adding that “members of government rarely available to discuss reports and statistics which are inconvenient”.

“Last month, otherwise omnipresent ministers weren’t available when more horrific figures for homelessness and hospital waiting lists were issued,” he said.

Mr Martin also questioned the Government’s approach to the Budget on October 10, saying he is getting “mixed messages” as to what Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe is planning.

Fianna Fáil wants the universal social charge to be reduced but so far the minister has indicated his plan is to change the point at which workers start paying the higher rate of income tax.

“In the last three months headlines have told us that there is no money, there is lots of money, infrastructure will be the priority, tax cuts will be the priority, health will be the priority, pensioners will come first, pensioners will come second, housing will be dealt with ,the new Brexit policy will be detailed, there will be no new Brexit policy because it’s up to the British to propose one,” Mr Martin said.

He criticised the establishment of a new Strategic Communications Unit in the Department of An Taoiseach, saying there is “a preponderance of staff involved in media announcements and spin”.

“The Taoiseach saw no need to hire an expert on economics, or housing, or health but immediately appointed a marketing expert to his team.”

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