Political parties set out their stalls for election day
Party leaders, Ministers and TDs address media as election campaigns begin in earnest
Fianna Fáil TD Billy Kelleher, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Cllr Catherine Ardagh at a press conference following the announcement of Election 2016. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
Renua Ireland leader Lucinda Creighton speaking to media outside the gates of Leinster House after the dissolution of the 31st Dail. Photograph: Alan Betson
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams with Mary Lou McDonald TD, Pearse Doherty TD and Louise O’Reilly, Dublin Fingal candidate, outside Government Buildings. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Labour leader Joan Burton and Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly speaking to media at the party’s campaign HQ in Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Tánaiste Joan Burton has insisted her deputy leader, Alan Kelly, is an “obedient employee”.
Ms Burton was questioned yesterday about an interview that Minister for the Environment Mr Kelly gave last weekend in which he claimed he was his own boss.
Speaking yesterday after the election date was set and the 31st Dáil was dissolved, Mr Kelly said: “Joan is definitely the boss of the Labour Party, believe me.” Ms Burton responded: “He is an incredibly obedient employee.” She later clarified he was also her colleague.
Mr Kelly and Ms Burton were speaking as they addressed Labour staff as the election campaign started, urging them to get out and sell the party’s message to voters.
Ms Burton said the election would be a contest between hope and optimism offered by Labour and Fine Gael, or the Opposition who portrayed Ireland as a “dark, dull” place.
Ms Burton also confirmed Labour would commit to free GP care for all in their manifesto. This follows confirmation by Minister for Health Leo Varadkar that Fine Gael could not commit to the introduction of universal care in the next Dáil term due to a shortage of GPs.
Mr Noonan claims the fiscal space – the resources for tax cuts and spending increases over the next five years – is worth €12 billion.
However, Department of Finance’s figures show the “net fiscal space” is €8.6 billion between 2017-2021.
The Minister said the money available is down to the policies Fine Gael and Labour committed to, and “chapter and verse” of the plan will be unveiled today.
“The problem with the Opposition’s position is they opposed everything we did when we were putting these policies in place,” said Mr Noonan. “They voted against them all of the time. Now they are very brave and they are going to spend the money these policies have generated and they are committed to changing the policies.
“When they change the policies they will not get the resources . . . the Sinn Féin formula will destroy the economy. You won’t get the growth, you won’t get the economy and you won’t get the resources and yet they are committing to spend, so you will have another fiscal crisis after a couple of years and our deficits will grow towards 7 per cent again.”
Speaking after the launch of Fianna Fáil’s election campaign yesterday, Mr Martin pointed to the party emerging as the largest after the 2014 local elections. He also said Fianna Fáil was more competitive than it had been given credit for in many constituencies.
In an interview with The Irish Times, Mr Martin said that although the local elections were a different type of election, the party had outperformed the polls. He argued that it could repeat the performance.
Asked what the party would do if that were to happen, Mr Martin would not go into specifics. “We will go into government, again deciding on whom the people decide to give the maximum number of votes to,” he said. “Fine Gael had ruled out Fianna Fáil, we have ruled out them. Sinn Féin has ruled out Fianna Fáil. We have ruled out them for reasons we have made clear. But there are other parties.
“Obviously, we want to create a different type of Ireland in the next five years. That will be the litmus test of us going into government.”
Mr Martin said the party was running 70 candidates, providing a mix of “proven experience and new faces”.
“We will hold this Government to account and promote a positive message. We want an Ireland for all,” he said.
Mr Martin repeated his attack on Fine Gael as a “party of the wealthy”.
“Getting access to health, young people getting access to education, creating decent quality jobs, good quality homes, and ending homelessness – these are our priority issues. People need a choice. It can’t be a coronation.”
Asked was there one thing that distinguished Fianna Fáil from its rivals, he replied: “We have a far stronger social conscience in terms of getting a fairer society in place.”
Sinn FéinGerry Adams
Mr Adams said he did not see a BBC Spotlight documentary on Tuesday night which explored what the recent conviction of Murphy, who Mr Adams subsequently described as a “good republican”, might mean for Sinn Féin in the election.
Asked if he thought Murphy would feature prominently during the campaign, he replied: “I wouldn’t like to think so and I didn’t see the programme. He isn’t to my knowledge standing in the election.”
Mr Adams said he did not know how many seats Sinn Féin might secure but was hoping for more than 14, which is the party’s current tally.
“Any improvement on that would be a good day for us. A good day, if I may say so, for the citizens of this State and of this island.”
Mr Adams said Sinn Féin was committed to ending property tax and water charges. He said it had a plan for universal health care, for public services and social housing.
“Essentially this is a choice between whether you want a society which is fair and equal or whether we have more of the same that we’ve seen under Fine Gael and Labour.”
Mr Adams said his party had never been against wealth. During the “Celtic Tiger” years, Sinn Féin had argued for surplus funds to be invested in infrastructure, public services and sustainable jobs, he said.
“What we’re seeing now is boom and bust. As you would manage your own household, we think you need to be prudent. We think we’re being very fiscally responsible.”
Mr Adams said he would like to serve the people in whatever capacity they wanted. “If it’s their wish I would come forward and serve them in a capacity as taoiseach.”
The housing crisis and the rising costs of rent will be the “single biggest issue” during the campaign, the Anti Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit group (AAA-PBP) has claimed.
The group – which includes Ruth Coppinger and Paul Murphy of the AAA, and Richard Boyd Barrett of PBP – have formed a joint platform and held a press conference outside Leinster House yesterday to mark the start of the campaign.
Ms Coppinger said the voters faced a real choice and are being offered a real alternative.
“A group of left, socialist TDs bringing the real concerns of working-class people into the floor of the chamber every day. Obviously the key issues in the election are well known.
“The housing crisis would be the single biggest issue and the rent situation which is now impacting on middle-income groups big-time. The issue of the water charges and taxation justice would be big issues as well.”
Ms Coppinger, a TD for Dublin West, also said childcare is a big concern, which she described as a “second mortgage”. She said funds for public services could be found by taxing wealth, such as a levy on millionaires.
Renua IrelandLucinda Creighton
Speaking at Renua’s first event since the Dáil was dissolved, Ms Creighton said yesterday the party was a “political force to be reckoned with” and was targeting 10 seats.
“Obviously there are vast sums of money being pumped into my own constituency to try and make sure I don’t win my seat. I take nothing for granted. I never have. I would never be so arrogant as to assume anything.”
Dublin Bay South, previously known as Dublin South-East, is a competitive constituency where Ms Creighton’s former party Fine Gael is fielding Eoghan Murphy and Kate O’Connell. Ms Creighton said hers was a small party with a limited amount of resources and Oireachtas members. TDs Billy Timmins (Wicklow), who is deputy leader of Renua, and Terence Flanagan (Dublin Bay North), are among the party’s candidates.
“Our campaign will largely be run on adrenalin, enthusiasm and a passion for a better Ireland and I think for me that beats all the apparatus and the machinery of the established parties,” she said, adding that Renua’s campaign launch would take place on Friday.