The co-leader of the Social Democrats Róisín Shortall has described reported plans for a trial State childcare scheme as 'exceptionally weak'.
The Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil leaders are expected to meet today to sign off on a document spelling out how the next government would work.
It includes measures on childcare, housing, a national living wage and reform of the health sector in a bid to win a smaller party on side to join a coalition.
It has been reported that a trial of a State childcare scheme is among the proposals being put forward in the document.
Róisín Shortall has said they have yet to see the framework document agreed between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil negotiators, and reiterated that her party will read it and consider it once they do receive it.
However, Deputy Shortall told The Pat Kenny Show that there are fundamental differences between her party and Fine Gael in particular.
She observed: "There’s no denying that fact: we are different parties, and we take a very different view of the world and a different approach to solving problems.
“We would regard ourselves as one of the main parties of public service: we believe the State should be centrally involved in the provision of healthcare, in the provision of childcare, in affordable housing… all of those key public services that are so central to people’s lives.”
She argued that the Fine Gael approach in Government, supported by Fianna Fáil, has been leaving many essential services “to the market” - pointing to housing in particular.
"We need a complete step change"
Deputy Shortall said the current COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the weaknesses in how governments have approached public services in recent years.
She said such services shouldn't be privatised, and instead should be made available to all on a universal basis.
She argued: "Because it’s a crisis situation, the Government has moved very quickly to ensure greater public provision - but it shouldn’t take a crisis to realise that.
“Those changes that have taken place should be embedded now in how we provide those services."
The Social Democrats co-leader said what she has heard of FF/FG's proposed childcare scheme so far is not inspiring
She noted: “The Government is apparently now in this document talking about trialling State provision of childcare - I mean, that’s exceptionally weak. We’re not really interested in pilot projects or trying things out… we need a complete step change in how we provide public services.
“The State has taken over the payment of childcare workers - there should be no going back on that. But all the indications are Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are talking about going back to business as usual once this health crisis is over - that’s not what the Social Democrats believe at all."
Deputy Shortall suggested there's "no indication that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil actually get" the need for significant change, "in spite of all those weaknesses highlighted by this crisis".