Tuesday 24 April 2018

Social Democrats: We won't prop up FG government

TDs Róisín Shortall, Catherine Murphy and Stephen Donnelly at the launch of the newly formed Social Democrats party this morning. Photo: Mark Condren
TDs Róisín Shortall, Catherine Murphy and Stephen Donnelly at the launch of the newly formed Social Democrats party this morning. Photo: Mark Condren

John Downing and Niall O'Connor

One of the leaders of Ireland's newest political party has insisted she and her colleagues will not help "make up the numbers" for a Fine Gael-led coalition if the numbers fall short after the general election.

The Social Democrats have also pledged to run budgets where spending outweighs taxation measures by two to one.

But while championing a so-called "Nordic model" of public services - the Dáil's newest party has argued this does not necessarily mean higher taxes.

Kildare North TD Catherine Murphy, one of the three co-leaders of the Social Democrats, insisted that no coalition option will be "ruled in or out" at this stage.

"But we are not interested in being a 'mudguard,'" Ms Murphy said when asked about supporting outgoing Taoiseach Enda Kenny if he does not have an overall majority.

In an interview with the Irish Independent, Ms Murphy also would not rule in or out the prospect of sharing government with Sinn Féin in the future.

"Look, this is a longer-term project. We are talking about fundamental change in Irish politics and that is going to take more than one election," she said.

Ms Murphy added that the party "will be looking at option politics" instead of "auction politics".

Ms Murphy, a former Democratic Left member, has combined with former Labour TD Róisín Shortall, and Wicklow/East Carlow TD Stephen Donnelly to launch the new party, which is in the process of registration. She agreed some observers were surprised by the two women deputies linking up with Mr Donnelly, who is seen as more right-wing on economic issues.

"I think Stephen has been wrongly labelled on this. He is a supporter of investment in public services and also I think our diversity is a strength," Ms Murphy said.

She argued that more public service spending did not inevitably mean higher taxes and said supporting small and medium businesses to create more jobs was key.

"We will have to look at tax and things like tax shelters. But if you get more people working, in proper jobs, they will be contributing to support services and there is also huge scope for savings on public spending," Ms Murphy said.

Ms Murphy said Norway had saved the equivalent of US$7bn by developing a central public service website which became a one-stop hub for applications and information.

During the party's launch at Civic Offices in Dublin, the Social Democrats said they are seeking to field candidates in every constituency.

But the party has yet to approach any prospective candidate or begin fundraising for the election.

Among the guests at the launch were mortgage campaigner David Hall and former Mayor of Fingal Cian O'Callaghan.

The party said it wants to make ministers and senior civil servants accountable for their decisions.

"When mistakes are made, there should be consequences," said Ms Shortall.

There was also a significant focus on childcare. The party intends to extend paid paternity leave and set up child clinics.

"We want to break the cycle where one out of eight children lives in poverty," Ms Shortall added.

The TDs refused to commit to the idea of entering coalition talks with Fine Gael after the election.

A significant red line being adopted by the party relates to Irish Water.

Ms Shortall and Ms Murphy said they have not yet paid their bills, but Mr Donnelly said he probably would pay.

The Wicklow/East Carlow TD wants to abolish water charges and ensure the public ownership through a constitutional referendum.

The Policies

Irish Water - The party will abolish water charges and pause the metering programme if in Government. One option is to guarantee public ownership of the water system.

Childcare - The Social Democrats have pledged to increase paid parental leave to 12 months.

Abortion - The party says it wants to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution and replace it through legislative process.

Healthcare - The party is in favour of Universal Health Insurance (UHI) which has proven contentious within Government circles due to its cost.

Budgetary - The Social Democrats have vowed to pursue a 2:1 approach in relation to spending and taxation.

Irish Independent

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