McDonald accuses Noonan of ‘brazenly cooking the figures’

Sinn Féin deputy leader says not a ‘whit of difference’ between FF and FG

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has accused Minister for Finance Michael Noonan of attempting to "distract the debate" in his comments about Portugal and economic instability.

Mr Noonan warned at the weekend that “voters should look to Portugal if they want to see how political instability leads to economic instability”.

Portugal experienced an inconclusive election last October and has experienced lower than expected economic growth.

In a scathing attack McDonald said: “I think he should look in the mirror and see the chaos that he and his colleagues have delivered in government in this State.”

She Mr Noonan would be better served to “get his sums rights in this State”, and she accused him of “brazenly cooking the figures” at the beginning of the election over the potential money available for tax cuts and public service funding increases, if the economy meets projected growth targets.

“It would serve him better to realise the chaos and instability that has visited and still remains with families and communities right across the State,” Ms McDonald said.

She accused the Mr Noonan and the Coalition of having “a track record of being really, really dishonourable on the international stage. I mean specifically at the level of the EU.”

She said “they failed utterly to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other states, peripheral states, heavily indebted places like our own, to leverage some kind of influence to get the best deal for ourselves of course but also with an eye on other states.

“Any break that we ever got in respect of debt and in respect of the so-called bailout arrangement for this State was on the back of hard negotiating by others.”

Ms McDonald added: “I would say to Michael Noonan ‘get your own act together’. Consider the implications of what you have done here and don’t try and distract the debate.

Ms McDonald also claimed that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael “do not have a divine right to be in government” or to lead government.

She was responding to remarks by Taoiseach Enda Kenny that did not completely rule out a possible Fine Gael coalition with Fianna Fáil in the event of an election disaster for coalition partners Labour.

Ms McDonald claimed “End Kenny Enda Kenny wishes to be in government and that is the only thing that Enda Kenny actually cares about”.

She said “there is an alternative and that alternative should be given a chance to govern in a way that is progressive and republican in the fullest sense of the word”.

Ms McDonald was speaking to reporters as she launched a billboard poster near Leinster House with the slogan “Labour’s broken promises” highlighting election pledges made in the 2011 campaign opposing water charges, child benefit cuts and an increase in the third level registration fee.

Flanked by Dublin West candidate Cllr Paul Donnelly, Cllr Réada Cronin, the party's candidate in Kildare North and Cllr Séamie Morris, standing in Tipperary, Ms McDonald denied she was into negative campaigning.

“No, we want a positive campaign and we have set out our stall in a positive way but I do think it’s important that we call out the Labour Party on their track record of broken promises.”

She said Labour would set out its manifesto and make all sorts of commitments which were “not to be believed. So yes, we’re calling them out on their record in Government. I don’t think that’s negative. I think that’s entirely fair and legitimate in the course of a general election campaign.”

The Labour Party had “very brazenly broken every single promise it made”, that water charges were introduced, the respite grant and maternity benefit were cut and prescription charges were hiked up dramatically, she said.

And Ms McDonald claimed that “anyone who imagines that a small group of Labour party TDs will be anything other than a mudguard again for Fine Gael is living in cloud cuckoo land”.

Asked about a potential Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil coalition, the Sinn Féin deputy leader said “there isn’t a whit of difference between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and that has been demonstrated over the last five years.

“All we can say is that our firm belief is that we need not just a change in personalities but a different government, a different type of government and we think this election is the opportunity to demonstrate that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael do not have a divine right to be in government, do not have a divine right to lead government.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is a parliamentary reporter with The Irish Times