Taoiseach makes first general election campaign pitch in New Year video

Varadkar and Coveney promise ‘record high’ employment and 11,000 social housing units

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar  promised to help deliver 50,000 new jobs and  25,000 new homes in the State this year. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar promised to help deliver 50,000 new jobs and 25,000 new homes in the State this year. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has made a first general election campaign pitch by promising to help deliver 50,000 new jobs and provide 25,000 new homes in the State this year.

In a New Year video, Mr Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney list Fine Gael priorities for the coming year.

Mr Varadkar says he will steer Ireland through the next phase of Brexit by helping to secure a trade deal between the European Union and the UK; he also vows to give Irish businesses and farmers access to the British market; and promises to “achieve a new record high when it comes to employment”.

“We know that well-paid secure jobs are the best ways to improve living standards, create opportunity, and reduce poverty,” he says.

The Taoiseach also claims the Government will add 11,000 units to the social housing stock. “That’s more new social houses than any other year this century under any other party,” he says.

The Taoiseach’s messages also alludes to climate change, with promises to reduce greenhouse emissions by creating warmer homes, improving air quality and investing in public transport.

The video is the second such broadcast made by the Taoiseach in recent days. On St Stephen’s Day, he described his achievements since assuming office 2½ years ago.

It is one of a number of social media broadcasts and publications recently issued by Fine Gael, suggesting the party is upping the ante ahead of a general election, which is widely expected to take place in the spring.

Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton has also announced a raft of initiatives on waste, packaging and climate change in recent days.

Climate change and the “green agenda” are expected to be major themes of the election campaign. Fine Gael, in particular, may be vulnerable to rising support for the Green Party in affluent urban areas, after that party’s strong performance in the local and European elections and November’s byelections.