Micheál Martin more familiar with ‘abdication’ than ‘coronation – Harris

Noonan compares Fianna Fáil claims to ‘Comical Ali’ in Baghdad

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin is more familiar with "abdication" than "coronation", Minister of State Simon Harris has told the Fine Gael Ardfheis.

Referring to Mr Martin’s remarks at the Fianna Fáil Ardfheis claiming Fine Gael was looking for a coronation not an election, Mr Harris said that rather than coronation the word Mr Martin “would be more familiar with is abdication”.

Speaking during a debate on long-term economic planning that was broadcast live on RTÉ television, Mr Harris addressed his comments to Mr Martin and said that with his colleagues in the last government "you abdicated your responsibility. You royally failed the people of Ireland. "

He said the electorate would have a decision to make and Fine Gael had a long-term economic plan to keep the recovery going with 200,000 more jobs over the next five years and they would “abolish Fianna Fáil’s hated universal social charge”.


Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, who received a standing ovation before and after he spoke, also hit out at Fianna Fáil.

He too referred to the “hated” USC, introduced in Fianna Fáil’s last budget in office. He said the party also promised the tax increases that “would have taken an average of €520 per year out of workers take home pay, on top of the USC”.

He said Fine Gael renegotiated to remove these “job-killing tax increases that destroy the incentive to work” and had already twice cut the USC.

Mr Noonan said Fine Gael also replaced the “rotten deal” Fianna Fáil agreed on the “disastrous promissory note arrangement”, that €3 billion per year of Irish taxpayers money would be paid into Anglo Irish Bank every year until 2023.

He said that in a key turning point for the economy, Fine Gael renegotiated the interest rates on all Ireland's loans from Europe. "Fine Gael cut the interest bill on our national debt to below €7 billion, €4 billion lower than the Fianna Fáil plan. This is the equivalent of €2,000 per year for everyone at work in the country."

These were the “highlights” of “their failed plan and now Fianna Fáil claim that they are responsible for the recovery. This claim reminds me of ‘Comical Ali’ in Baghdad claiming victory while the American tanks rolled in behind him,” Mr Noonan said to laughter.

Mr Noonan said “the recovery we are experiencing is fragile, but Fine Gael has a long-term economic plan that will keep the recovery going”.

They had three steps – more and better jobs, making work pay and sensible investments in public services. The party’s manifesto would include more measures to support business, doubling the number of apprenticeships to 31,000, a further €42 billion extra in infrastructural investments and the protection of the 12.5 per cent corporation tax rate.

Other TDs praised the Minister for Finance. Dublin South-Central TD Catherine Byrne said he had “taken us by the scruff of our necks and dragged us through thick and thin”. She added that “if there is anyone I’d devote myself to in public life . . . it is Michael Noonan”.

Ms Byrne also warned the electorate that “if there is not a stable Government after this election then we’ll be back in six months to people, knocking on your door” in another election.

Hitting out at Sinn Féin she said they there telling people that they shouldn’t have to “pay anything and everything will be free. I’ve worked since I was 14 and there’s nothing free.” And she described the three joint leaders of the Social Democrats as the “three amigos” and that “nobody wants to be in charge”.

Kerry TD Brendan Griffin described the USC as "the most hated tax in the history of the Irish State" and said that Irish people were paying far too much in personal taxation.

Dublin Bay South candidate Kate O’Connell said the party had to explain how it is going to increase house building to 25,000 units a year by 2021.

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney called on the electorate to "help us finish the job we began five difficult years ago. Let's keep the recovery going with a Fine Gael-led government." Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe hit out at Fianna Fail claiming they "have lots of ideas about how to spend money but previous few about creating the jobs that will give them the money to spend. They haven't changed a bit since the crash."

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times