Martin signals shift in Fianna Fáil position on austerity
Party leader says Fianna Fáil will no longer support the type of measures that have marked budgetary policy over the past five years
Micheál Martin addressing Fianna Fáil’s 74th ardfheis at the RDS in Dublin. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has signalled that his party will no longer support the type of austerity measures that have marked budgetary policy over the past five years.
In his leaders speech to the Fianna Fáil Ard Fhies tonight Mr Martin argued that the concession the State had received on the promissory note has been a game changer.
“There is now more money available because of how Europe has changed policies. This means over €1 billion extra per year is available because of a cut in interest rates and a rescheduling of debt which has been introduced for Ireland and other States.
“This should be used to lessen the burden of new taxes, to fund an increased capital programme and to protect health and education.”
During the course of the speech to some 2,000 delegates in the RDS, Mr Martin sought to position the party as a constructive party of opposition, which will support the Government if it believes it is pursuing the correct policies.
He said that people no longer cared about party labels, what they wanted to hear about was the ideas Fianna Fáil have come up it and its proposals on how Ireland will be a more successful and fairer country in the future.
“If you want destructive politics-as-usual, if you want blinkered all-out opposition, then the Fianna Fáil party I lead is not for you,” he said. Mr Martin said that Ireland was going through tough times but that did not mean that choices could not be made.
“Everyday this Government is making choices which are deeply unfair and which are destroying recovery.
“This is a crisis that keeps changing and that needs new, more flexible and more creative responses.”
He criticised the Government’s departments on a range of issues contending it had failed to create jobs, or stimulate recovery in the small and medium enterprise sector.
He also said Fianna Fáil would vote against the Home Repossession Bill next week.
Setting out his argument he said: “It is wrong for the Government to make it easy for the banks to repossess family homes...
Giving banks full control of debt restructuring is not an agenda for action: it is a recipe for escalating the human, social and economic damage.”
And he again set out his party’s opposition to the property tax describing it as “the wrong tax at the wrong time”.
Mr Martin and Fianna Fáil have been criticised for adopting this position, given that provision for a property tax was included in its four-year plan for recovery in the autumn of 2010 and also included with the bailout memorandum the Brian Cowen-led government agreed with the Troika of international lenders.
The Fianna Fáil leader also berated the Government’s reform programme claiming that it had failed to implement one significant change in how Ireland is governed.
In the section dealing with Northern Ireland, he asserted that the British and Irish governments were disengaged from the peace process and that had created the vacuum which had led to recent riots and disruption.
He concluded the speech with an attack on the Government which he accused of having a record of spin and broken promies.
“Our country needs a credible voice for a fairer society for learing the lessons of the past through delivering a real reform of politics.”