Micheál Martin attacks "out of touch" Government in Ard Fheis address

The party leader insisted Irish voters have a choice of a "fairer way"

Fianna Fail, Micheal Martin, Newstalk Lunchtime

Image: Photocall Ireland

In his presidential address at this evening's Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis, Micheál Martin said the Government is "out of touch" and wants a "coronation not an election."

The party leader accused the current coalition of letting down Irish families and creating a two-tier recovery.

Martin began his speech by honouring the Irish republicans behind the 1916 Rising, praising their vision of an equal Ireland, something "false Republicans" should never forget:

"They were no narrow nationalists. They demanded that the Republic be democratic and inclusive, and they said that no person could call themselves a republican if they acted with inhumane or debased methods."

Though 1916 belongs to no party, it played a "special role" in the formation of Fianna Fáil, Martin said.

Turning to the present Government, he spoke dismissively of its claims of delivering a recovery in the Irish economy.

Calling it a "fairy tale," Martin said the coalition in fact delayed recovery and made it more unfair, resulting in increased inequality as well as dire situations in public services.

"In emergency departments, in waiting lists, burglaries, rural crime, response to floods, housing, homelessness, disability services, special education, serious drug abuse and in many other areas they have failed," he said.

He identified Fianna Fáil's priorities as the creation of decent jobs and supporting enterprise; improving services and cutting costs for families; tackling crime; and addressing the current housing and homelessness crisis.

The costing of the party's plans will be reviewed by an independent analysis, which will then be published with its manifesto.

Martin called on other parties to follow his lead and "have an honest debate about policies which can be implemented."

On jobs, he warned of a drift between well-paid, skilled positions and others with low pay and poor conditions, also noting the regional divisions that have widened in recent years.

To support SMEs, he pledged to provide tax relief and support for the self-employed, cut capital gains tax to 10% and develop critical infrastructure across the country.

Martin pledged to alleviate pressure on families by phasing out the USC, increasing tax credits and provide more childcare assistance.

Irish Water would be scrapped, he said, along with the water charge that funds it.

Martin went on to castigate the Government's role in health, saying the 'Dutch Model' of funding has fallen apart, and yet Enda Kenny prioritises "tax cuts for the wealthiest."

"We’ll stop the privatisation agenda and the shifting of extra costs onto vulnerable patients," he said.

"We’ll develop important new services in mental health, invest in primary care and recruit the extra staff essential for tackling today’s crisis."

The housing crisis is a result of Government negligence, Martin said, promising to take emergency action including 45,000 social houses, easing the mortgage arrears crisis, increasing rent supplement.

Closing his speech, he insisted Irish voters have a choice of a "fairer way" than that laid down by Fine Gael and Labour:

"We can’t risk more of the arrogance, the refusal to plan, the blocking of political reform, the addiction to telling stories rather than tackling problems.

"We can secure economic progress without sacrificing the sense of community, the commitment to looking after each other which represents the best of us."

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