Monday 16 September 2019

Martin takes aim at 'out-of-touch elitist' Varadkar

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Picture: Arthur Carron
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Picture: Arthur Carron
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin last night accused Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of being out of touch and said he was failing to deliver on any of his commitments on housing or health.

Speaking at the Fianna Fail Ard Fheis in Dublin's RDS, Mr Martin rounded on the Taoiseach for his "addiction to spin" and not being focused on the housing crisis or the mounting problems facing the health service.

Mr Martin was also critical of the Government's response to Brexit.

"There are today more political appointees working on communications than at any time in our history. The Taoiseach has actually appointed a marketing expert to his department," he said.

"He has appointed no expert to advise on health, or housing, or Brexit or any other of the most urgent problems - but he has an entire team to shoot videos to sell his image."

Mr Martin said the Government could not cover up the housing crisis with spin and criticised what he said was a "lack of urgency and a lack of basic competence to deliver any changes".

He said the highest hospital waiting lists on record were not due to the failure of health professionals but rather the result of "disastrous political decisions".

"Last month, they actually contacted every hospital in the country asking that the minister and Taoiseach be told of good news stories so that they can turn up to be photographed," Mr Martin said.

"These same people go into hiding every time bad news appears - but if they can claim credit for someone else's work, they want to be there.

"It's time to end the chaos and start working to deliver a health service which people have a right to expect."

Mr Martin, inset, said he was concerned by a "big move to the right by Fine Gael" and the party's "push for a more divisive and regressive tax policy" with no interest in tackling the "deep problems in public services".

"Only an out-of-touch elite could have come up with the idea of trying to divide society into those who get up early in the morning and everyone else.

"I'm sorry, but we will never accept labelling the sick, pensioners, children with special needs, people with disabilities or people looking for a home as being less entitled to society's support.

"The decision by Fine Gael to head off on this new divisive road is more about positioning for an election than trying to govern."

On Brexit, Mr Martin said the only way to deal with customs issues facing Northern Ireland was to create a special economic zone to allow continued full trade across the Border.

"It's not a new idea - there are actually 4,500 such zones in the world. But it is the only credible way of preventing grave damage from Brexit on our island," he said.

"Central to getting through Brexit is for the Northern Assembly and Executive to be re-established.

"Northern Ireland is not at the table and its voice cannot be heard.

"The failure of Sinn Fein and the DUP to govern is threatening progress achieved over the last 20 years.

"It is leaving Northern Ireland with no say as the Tory civil war continues to make a bad Brexit decision even worse.

"They need to get back to doing what they were elected to do and still being paid to do - establish a government and work for the people."

Mr Martin said Ireland would not be following the path of UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and his "self-obsessed Brexiteers on their path of destruction".

"Brexit is a threat which has many economic, social and political parts," he said.

"There are businesses and sectors which are already suffering. We can only meet and overcome the threat of Brexit if we have clear leadership - and this is something we are not seeing."

Sunday Independent

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