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Sinn Fein calls for investment plan as alternative to fiscal treaty

SINN Fein has called for a €13bn investment boost to jobs and infrastructure as an alternative to accepting the European fiscal treaty.

As new French president Francois Hollande meets German chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss a growth stimulus to be stitched into the agreement, Pearse Doherty claimed that Ireland should act alone.

The Donegal South-West TD said the Government, which is pushing for a yes vote in the May 31 referendum, cannot promote both austerity and growth.

"We cannot get out of the mess that this country's in, we need to invest in jobs," said Mr Doherty.

"We don't have to wait for a magic solution from Europe, we can do this here and now."

Mr Doherty and TDs Mary Lou McDonald and Peadar Toibin called for the Government to invest in a three-year stimulus package.

They said money could be sourced from the National Pension Reserve Fund, the European Investment Bank and an investment from the private pension sector.

"The choice is austerity or investment in jobs," said Mr Toibin.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan separately said today that the European Investment Bank could be used for investment in schools and hospitals following a meeting in Brussels today.

Speaking with Public Reform Minister Brendan Howlin after a meeting of finance ministers in Brussels, he said that an amount has not been agreed but that Ireland would take what we could get as long as the funding was off balance sheet in a bid to stimulate growth in the economy.

The Sinn Fein proposal includes measures to create around 130,000 jobs over the next three years. One such measure suggested was retrofitting homes.

Mr Toibin said the €13bn boost could save around €800m a year in social welfare, while a €600m job retention fund could keep up to 96,000 people in their jobs for a year.

Earlier, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore made yet another appeal for the public to vote yes in the referendum on the fiscal treaty.

As Mr Hollande was being sworn into office in Paris, the Tanaiste insisted that adding growth measures to the text of the deal would be top of the agenda at the next European summit on May 23.

The new French president warned during his election campaign that he would not ratify the treaty unless it was revised to include a jobs and growth plan.

As it stands, the deal aims to impose stricter budgetary rules on member states and drive down deficits. It also includes measures to punish countries that fail to stick to European rules.

Mr Hollande's ultimatum coupled with resistance to the treaty in the German parliament has led to increased uncertainty surrounding its future.

German chancellor Ms Merkel was forced to delay its ratification last week after failing to get majority support from the Bundestag.

This has prompted a number of Independent TDs and MEP Marian Harkin to call for the postponement of the referendum in Ireland - an appeal the Government has rejected.