Fianna Fáil distances itself from austerity

Party leader Micheál Martin says promissory note deal a game-changer

Party leader Micheál Martin  making his leader’s speech to the Fianna Fáil ardfheis on Saturday night. Photograph: Alan Betson

Party leader Micheál Martin making his leader’s speech to the Fianna Fáil ardfheis on Saturday night. Photograph: Alan Betson


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 leader’s speech to the Fianna Fáil Ardfheis on Saturday night Mr Martin argued that the concession the State had received on the promissory note had 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,” he said.

“This should be used to lessen the burden of new taxes, to fund an increased capital programme and to protect health and education.”

Constructive criticism
During the course of the speech to some 2,000 delegates in the RDS, Mr Martin sought to position Fianna Fáil as a constructive party of opposition, which would support the Government if it believed it was pursuing the correct policies.

He said people no longer cared about party labels: they wanted to hear the ideas Fianna Fáil had on how Ireland could 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. Ireland was going through tough times but this did not mean choices could not be made.

“Every day 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 contended that the Government had failed to create jobs or stimulate recovery in the small and medium enterprise sector.

Home Repossession Bill
He also said Fianna Fáil would vote against the Home Repossession Bill next week.

Setting out his argument, he said: “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”.

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 included with the bailout memorandum the Brian Cowen-led government agreed with the troika of international lenders.

Mr Martin berated the Government’s reform programme, claiming it had failed to implement one significant change in how Ireland was governed.

On Northern Ireland, he asserted that the British and Irish governments were disengaged from the peace process and this had created a vacuum which had led to riots and disruption.