FF, Labour clash on bailout, FG pledges action on banks


The economy dominated election campaigning again today, with Fine Gael pledging to help homeowners in negative equity and Fianna Fáil accusing the Opposition of trying to mislead voters over the EU-IMF bailout.

Fine Gael said it would shut down Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide building society by the end of the year and to stop future asset transfers to the National Asset Management Agency from the other banks.

Publishing its banking policy today, the party  pledges to increase mortgage interest relief for those in negative equity to help them save up to €166 a month. It would also cut bank costs to avoid interest rate hikes. 

Finance spokesman Michael Noonan said the plan would bring the sector “back from the brink” and stimulate economic recovery.party’s aim in government would be to achieve a “well-regulated, competitive, profitable, and privately-owned banking system”.

At an event in Dublin, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin accused Opposition parties of attempting to "deliberately mislead" voters about what changes to the IMF-EU bailout deal can be achieved. Mr Martin said Ireland had to engage in a "respectful way" with colleagues in Europe. He said changing the terms of the deal required building consensus rather than causing conflict.

Labour education spokesman Ruairí Quinn said today a Labour government would not unilaterally tear up the EU-IMF deal. While admitting some parts of it are non-negotiable, he insisted elements of the package could be changed and a Government with new personalities and a new mandate could bring this to the negotiating table in Europe. Labour also published its green jobs plan, which contains proposals to put about 30,000 unemployed construction workers put back to work through a new national retrofit scheme to insulate people's homes.

The Green Party could prove a bridge builder between Fine Gael and Labour in marrying inconsistencies between their economic policies if it was in a new rainbow coalition, Senator Dan Boyle said today. Mr Boyle said that there were clear inconsistencies between the two main opposition parties over the ratios they were proposing for cutting public expenditure relative to increasing taxation. He said the Greens could help resolve those differences in a new coalition deal.

Sinn Féin today called for the abolition of the universal social charge and the introduction of a third rate of tax on incomes over €100,000. The party's justice spokesman Aengus Ó Snodaigh said a rate of 48 per cent would apply to individuals earning over that sum. He said the proposal had been costed by the Department of Finance at €410 million, which was "virtually the same" as the €420 million the social charge would raise this year.

People Before Profit said its candidates will “lead a huge struggle against major tax hikes” both in the Dáil and outside if elected. The party, which is part of the United Left Alliance, is fielding nine candidates in Dublin, Cork and Wexford.

Meanwhile, the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll shows a Fine Gael-Labour coalition is the most favoured outcome of the election. The poll reveals an almost equal three-way split between the main party leaders as the preferred choice for taoiseach.

Asked which of a number of coalition options they would like to see emerge after the election, 34 per cent opted for Fine Gael and Labour, 11 per cent favoured Fine Gael and Independents while 9 per cent wanted Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

Support for a coalition involving Labour, Sinn Féin and left-leaning parties and Independents came in at 12 per cent. Fianna Fáil and Labour attracted 8 per cent support.

Asked which of the coalition options they believed was likely to form the next government 41 per cent opted for Fine Gael and Labour, far ahead of any of the others.

Only 5 per cent of voters thought a Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael coalition likely; 4 per cent went for Fine Gael and Independents; and 3 per cent went for Labour, Sinn Féin and left-wing Independents.

Asked who they would prefer to see as taoiseach after the election Eamon Gilmore attracted 26 per cent support, followed by Enda Kenny on 24 per cent and Micheál Martin on 23 per cent.

Mr Gilmore has dropped 17 per cent since the last Irish Times poll six weeks ago when voters were asked whether they would prefer to see him or Enda Kenny head an alternative government. Mr Kenny is down 4 per cent since that poll. Among voters who say they will not change their minds by election day, Mr Kenny leads with 32 per cent, followed by Mr Gilmore on 30 per cent and Mr Martin on 21 per cent.

The poll was taken on Monday and Tuesday of this week among a representative sample of 1,000 voters aged 18 and over, in face-to-face interviews at 100 sampling points in all 43 constituencies. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 per cent.