Labour says Sinn Fein would push tax rate above 62% for many

‘It’s a new kind of F word, the Fiscal Space,’ Burton says as she vows not to use term

Labour leader Joan Burton  with Alan Kelly and Brendan Howlin TD during the formal launch of the Labour party general election campaign at the Bord Gais Theatre, Dublin. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / The Irish TImes

Labour leader Joan Burton with Alan Kelly and Brendan Howlin TD during the formal launch of the Labour party general election campaign at the Bord Gais Theatre, Dublin. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / The Irish TImes

 

The Labour Party took the battle to the two main Opposition parties at the launch of its general election campaign in Dublin today.

Tánaiste Joan Burton and senior colleagues Brendan Howlin and Alan Kelly made forceful attacks on Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin.

Ms Burton excoriated Sinn Féin’s plans to introduce a third income tax rate of 48 per cent for those earning over €100,000.

“Beware of Sinn Féin creeping into the night and raising taxes for those earning over €100,00 by a swingeing 6 per cent.”

She said a similar tax introduced in France had had very detrimental consequences: “It would push the tax rate for a lot of workers in Ireland above 62 per cent. I would be fearful for that in an an open economy.”

Mr Howlin said the Irish people had much more to fear from Fianna Fáil than anything else.

“The part that once apologised for its role in the economy now wants us to forget. We won’t.

“Personally, I’m in politics long enough to remember the last time they inflicted carnage on the Irish people in the 1970s and 1980s. They are serial offenders. They cannot be let back.”

The tone of the launch in the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre was more forceful that similar events held by other parties. Many of the party’s Ministers were present, as were most of its candidates.

The party is running 36 candidates in the election, one less than the number of TDs returned in the last election.

In her speech, Ms Burton said Labour had a vision of a shared recovery, using economic strength to build a decent society.

Setting up the stability versus chaos theme that has characterised the approach of both Government parties, she said: “A distinct fault line has already developed in this campaign, between (the Coalition) and the alternative, those wo talk down Ireland’s resurgence for their own political ends.

“We offer hope and a better future, they offer anger and despair.”

In reference to the volatility suggested by opinion polls, she said Ireland could not afford the luxury of having no government for months on end as has happened in Spain.

She also asserted Labour stood for progressive politics, instancing its stance on same sex marriage and on the eighth amendment to the Constitution (on abortion).

On another dominant theme, the fiscal space, Mr Howlin said Labour’s assessment of the net amount was the same as Fine Gael’s, €10.1 billion. He said there was potential for that sum being larger, depending on tax and economic policies.

Ms Burton quipped at the end that she would no longer use the term. “It’s a new kind of F word, the Fiscal Space,” she said.

On the so-called rainy day fund (a contingency fund in the even of a future shock) Mr Howlin said Labour would have unallocated money but it would not be an enormous sum. He said his preference was to spend money on fast-tracking capital projects.

In a series of questions about a row involving Mr Kelly and Tipperary Independent TD Michael Lowry over alleged favouritism in a Newstalk interview, Ms Burton said the party would be fighting a robust campaign.

Referring to herself as a Northside Dubliner, she said: “We can be tough enough. When the going gets tough the tough get going. That’s what we are asking all candidates to do in the election.”