Martin accuses Coalition of ‘divide and conquer’ tactic on Croke Park deal
Fianna Fáil leader says Government used €300 million ‘honeypot’ to buy off unions in side deals
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin speaking to media at the party’s 74th Ard Fheis in the RDS today. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin accused the Government of engaging in bribery in its attempts to “divide and conquer” the unions over the renegotiated Croke Park deal.
Mr Martin said the Government took a “very traditionalist old-style approach of counting numbers” and if they had the main unions on side they could isolate others and “I think the frontline workers got isolated, particularly in the health sector and the numbers didn’t add up in the end”.
As a result “it was divide and conquer. There was a bit of bribery with the €300 million honeypot and buying off unions in side deals and then there was threatening in the end that didn’t work either.”
He said they should go back to the table and “negotiate in good faith a proper deal”.
The Fianna Fáil leader was speaking to reporters this afternoon at the party’s ardfheis in the RDS. He had been questioned about why he had not been highlighting his party’s call in its budgetary paper, for a €350 million cut in public sector pay when the Government was seeking €300 million.
“We did say there would have to be savings in the public service. We made no secret of that. We also said there should be income tax rises above €100,000 so we put forward costed and credible proposals.
“Since then things have improved both in the debt and budgetary situations, with room for manoeuvre.”
But he said there would still have to be savings of the order of €300 million and we accept that and will give support for that if it happens.
Asked about comments by Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte that Labour Relations Commission chief Kieran Mulvey would have a difficult job in talking to the unions, Mr Martin said “the job gets more difficult for Kieran Mulvey when foolish statements emerge from government around – there is no job security now anymore allegedly.”
That he said “is a red rag to a bull to the people you want to negotiate with” and the situation was not helped by “pronouncements and leaks from government that I don’t think are thought out properly”.
The Fianna Fáil leader also criticised the fact that there was no “meaningful reform of either the Dáil or the executive itself” and warned againt abolition of the Seanad while there was no reform anywhere else.
They had argued for a secret ballot for the election of the Ceann Comhairle, he said as an example. Given the crisis the country had been through, “if you look at how parliament performed in terms of scrutiny and accountability, it didn’t”.
He said the Government controlled almost everything parliament did and “nothing has changed in that regard”.
The Seanad needed radical change but “I would favour a bi-cameral system. We’re actually witnessing right now a huge Government majority with very little accountability in the Dáil.”
He said they could ram anything through the Dáil – the property tax bill and social welfare bills were dealt with in three hours before Christmas. The Seanad had the potential to be an independent examiner of government, whatever government came into power in the future. “And I think people should think very carefully before jettisoning that without any reform of anything else. You are essentially halving any sort of review that’s out there of what government does.”