Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil outlined their general election manifestos on Friday, and here's how they compare in a number of key areas.
Tax cuts versus spending increases
Both parties say they will split future spending on a four to one ratio in favour of spending increases over tax cuts.
Fine Gael wants to increase the threshold at which people hit the higher rate of income tax from €35,300 to €50,000, which it says will be worth €3,000 to the average earner if the policy is fully implemented. The threshold for the exemption from the Universal Social Charge would rise from€13,000 to€20,500. The tax free allowance for inheritance tax will remain at €335,000 for inheriting sons and daughters. For the next €250,000, a 20 per cent rate would apply and the normal 33 per rate would kick in on anything above €585,000.
Fianna Fáil in government would reduce the 4.5 per cent USC rate to 3.5 per cent; increase the standard rate income tax band by €3,000 for a single person and €6,000 for a couple; increase the home carer tax credit to €2,000; increase the earned income tax credit to € 1,650; increase the income tax exemption limit for over 65s by €500 for a single person and € 1,000 for married couples; introduce a € 600 rent tax credit and introduce a € 2,000 childminder tax credit. Capital gains tax would be cut from 33 per cent to 25 per cent.
Fine Gael wants to provide between 35,000 and 40,000 homes per year and add 60,000 social houses over the next five years. It also proposes expanding the Help to Buy scheme, which currently provides an income tax and Dirt refund of €20,000 for first time buyers to be used for a deposit on new or self build homes. People living in towns with populations of less than 2,000 would be offered State owned sites at cost, which Fine Gael says would provide 8,600 homes.
Fianna Fáil says it can increase housing supply to 200,000, including 50,000 new social and 50,000 new affordable homes. The party would introduce an SSIA style scheme for first time buyers, which would see the State top up the savings of first time buyers by 33 per cent to a limit of €10,000. It would apply to the purchase of new and second hand homes up the value of €500,000. The Help to Buy scheme would remain in place and the tax refund would increase from €20,000 to €25,000.
Fine Gael says it would spend an extra €5 billion per year on health over the next five years. This would be used to fund an extra 2,600 hospital beds; 4,500 community beds; 5,000 extra nurses; 80 additional primary care centres and diagnostic centres; three elective hospitals in Dublin, Cork and Galway and 3,840 primary care workers. Daily hospital car parking charges would be capped at €10.Free GP care would be extended to everyone under the age of 18, the income limits for medical and GP visit cards would rise, and the threshold for medical cards for the over 70s will go back to 2012 levels.
Fianna Fáil in power would allocate an extra €2 billion to the health sector and claims that Fine Gael's €5 billion promise includes pre-existing commitments. Fianna Fáil wants an extra 2,600 hospital beds; to reduce emergency department waiting times to four hours; double funding to the National Treatment Purchase fund to €200 million; recruit 1,000 extra consultants and 4,000 extra nurses; expand free GP care; increase home care hours by five million over a term of office; increase funding to the Fair Deal scheme by €225million.
Fine Gael says it would increase the retrofitting of homes by ten times current levels; increase the take up of electric vehicles from 50 times current levels and consider a car scrappage scheme for the next budget; plant an additional 440 million trees. Carbon tax would rise to €80 per tonne by 2030 with €6 billion of carbon tax revenues reinvested in climate measures. The party wants to invest €21.8 billion in climate projects through the capital investment plan. The sale of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned by 2030. There will also be new or increased levies on plastics and coffee cups.
Carbon tax would be increased to €80 per tonne by Fianna Fáil and a new national infrastructure commission would be established to examine "30 year decarbonisation planning". This commission would "oversee the long term plans for: decarbonising Ireland; a strong public transport network that balances the economic needs of the country and the development of the rural regions". A national retrofit scheme would also be rolled out; diesel cars would be banned from cities from 2030,with a "complete removal" of fossil fuel cars from 2035.
Education and Childcare
Fine Gael says it will further decrease the pupil-teacher ratio in primary schools from its current rate of 26:1, but does not set out a specific target. It says it will gradually increase funding for higher education, which will reach €100 million above existing levels by 2025. On childcare, the universal childcare subsidy will be increased from €20 per week to €100 per week by 2025.
Fianna Fáil aims to reduce the pupil teach ratio to 20:1 by 2025 and would provide an extra €100 million per year to higher education. On childcare, the universal childcare subsidy will be increased from €20 per week to €80 per week by 2025.
Fine Gael would increase the weekly State pension by €5 per year. It would continue with the rise in the State pension age to 67 in 2021 and 68 in 2028. However, a new transition pension, equal to the State pension, for those over 66 would be introduced. For those aged 65, they would also receive a payment equal to the dole but they would not have to sign on or be seeking work.
Fianna Fáil would increase the weekly State pension by €5 per year and wants to "establish a commission to examine the State pension age, and defer any further pension age increase pending its completion". In the interim, a transition payment equal to the State pension will also be paid to those aged 65 and 66.