Election 2020: FF and FG trade insults on tax policy, Brexit

Coveney criticised for saying Martin 'not the person' to handle Brexit negotiations

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar launches Fine Gael’s 2020 election manifesto in Dublin. Video: John Cassidy


Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael traded sharp insults over tax policy and who is best placed to handle the next phase of Brexit talks as they launched their general election manifestos on Friday.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney claimed he knows Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin “better than most”, adding he is “not the person” he would want leading Ireland in the negotiations on the future trading relationship between the United Kingdom and European Union.

The pair are constituency colleagues in Cork South-Central and Mr Coveney’s comments mark an intensification of Fine Gael’s attacks on the Fianna Fáil leader.

The Tánaiste also claimed the election will come down to one issue – who the public trusts – in the final days of the campaign.

Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesman Michael McGrath, also a Cork South-Central TD, last night said he was “very disappointed” at Mr Coveney’s comments, which were “totally unnecessary” and “personalised”.

“Politics in Ireland should be better than that, even in the white heat of a general election campaign,” he added.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil’s manifestos, published a fortnight out from polling day on February 8th, promised massive investment in public services, cuts in personal taxation and a prudent fiscal policy.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe also claimed Fianna Fáil’s policy of reducing capital gains tax from 33 per cent to 25 per cent is “the dumbest tax change I’ve seen”.

Fianna Fáil respond

Mr Donohoe said it would immediately stop any intended transactions in the hope the change would be introduced.

Mr McGrath retorted that Fine Gael “has done precious little for entrepreneurs, risk-takers and the self-employed while in Government”.

He said his party’s proposal would be “widely welcomed in the business community”.

Fianna Fáil also cast doubt on Fine Gael’s pledge to spend €5 billion extra on the health services, claiming Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was including pre-committed expenditure in his calculations.

Mr Martin said Fine Gael had a track record of making exorbitant promises but failing to fulfil them.