Sunday 22 September 2019

Micheál Martin accuses government of failing to tell truth on border

Pictured was Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin (centre)with local Wexford Cllr. Malcolm Byrne and James Browne T.D ahead of the Parliamentary Party think-in in the Ashdown Hotel, Gorey, Co Wexford. Picture Conor McCabe Photography.
Pictured was Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin (centre)with local Wexford Cllr. Malcolm Byrne and James Browne T.D ahead of the Parliamentary Party think-in in the Ashdown Hotel, Gorey, Co Wexford. Picture Conor McCabe Photography.

Hugh O'Connell in Gorey, Co Wexford

FIANNA Fáil leader Micheál Martin has accused the government of failing to tell the truth for over a year about the need for customs checks in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Martin launched a scathing attack on the government at the beginning of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party think-in in Gorey, Co Wexford on Monday. He claimed that Ireland is not ready for no-deal Brexit and that the government needs to be upfront with people about the implications of the UK crashing out at the end of next month.

"I don’t think the government were telling us the truth last year when they adamantly said that there would be no checkpoints if there was a no-deal Brexit,” Mr Martin said.

"Simon Coveney said it, the Taoiseach himself said it in the Dáil and elsewhere. They were emphatic about there being no border come what may, that there would be no checks. That has changed in the last two weeks and the Tánaiste has said there will be checks somewhere and the Taoiseach has now also said there will be checks. So that is a completely different position to that articulated last January and [in] May 2018.”

Mr Martin said the country was not ready for a no-deal Brexit on the original exit date of March 31 - and that it is still not ready now. "The government now admit that we weren’t ready on the 31 March and it seems to me we’re not ready either on the 31 October if a no-detail was to materialise," he said.

"That is why I have asked the government to be totally upfront with people, to provide all of the information and all of the details to the people in terms of what a no-deal Brexit would entail and the implications of a no-deal Brexit for the economy and for whatever checks the government are planning with the European Commission."

The Cork South-Central TD spoke in favour of a Northern Ireland-only backstop to break the Brexit impasse, but said “it remains to be seen” whether Mr Johnson actually wants to secure a deal given the parliamentary turmoil in the UK where a general election could happen between now and the end of October. Mr Martin also confirmed that Fianna Fáil TDs, including himself, would canvass with SDLP candidates in the UK general election if one takes place in the coming weeks.

Mr Martin also engaged in a lengthy criticism of the government's handling of the health service, accusing it of delivering "fraudulent" budgets over the past three years and criticising delays in hospital discharges. "Let’s be under no illusions, as far as we’re concerned, this government is failing and has failed on a range of issues," Mr Martin said.

"The public are angry about that and they are angry about the failure to deliver on key promises that the government [has] made time and time again and they’re angry about the disconnect about what’s happening on the ground and the various government announcements."

Despite his strong criticism of the Fine Gael-led government which his party is keeping in government, Mr Martin said there could be no election before Christmas because of Brexit.. He said his party would examine the situation in early 2020 and signalled an election would happen sometime in the spring of next year.

"Given there is a lot of uncertainty out there, given that we still don’t know right now the full details of the government’s plans with the European Commission, we don’t believe there is a need for a general election or that there can be a general election this side of Christmas."

Ahead of the Budget on October 8, Mr Martin said there “has to be a degree of caution” because of Brexit. He said that services, in particular the health service, would have to be prioritised. “So health and housing would be our key priorities, along with climate change” he said.

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