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Fianna Fail in pledges to scrap Irish Water and build 45,000 social homes

Published 16/01/2016

Micheal Martin made the pledge at his party's ard fheis
Micheal Martin made the pledge at his party's ard fheis

Fianna Fail would scrap the universal social charge on low to middle incomes, abolish Irish Water and build 45,000 new social homes if elected to power, party leader Micheal Martin has pledged.

In a keynote speech to his party faithful at the annual ard fheis, Mr Martin also vowed to expand the Garda and bring in mandatory sentences for repeat burglars and those who attack older people.

Depicting Fine Gael as a party who favours the rich, he said the "arrogant and out of touch" coalition was taking credit for an economic recovery which was masterminded by former Fianna Fail finance minister Brian Lenihan.

"(Taoiseach) Enda Kenny is a man fond of telling stories about men with pints and the army at ATMs. But the biggest fairy tale of all is his claim to have delivered recovery," Mr Martin told the gathering in west Dublin.

"This government didn't deliver recovery - it delayed it and made it more unfair. And it refused to tackle any problem until it became a crisis."

Mr Martin said the Fine Gael/Labour coalition had failed to improve emergency departments, hospital waiting lists, burglaries, rural crime, the response to floods, housing, homelessness, disability services, special education and serious drug abuse.

"And they have also delivered a massive rise in inequality," he added.

"This didn't happen by chance, it was their choice.

"Every time a new bill arrived in your home it was because of their policy to shift how government is funded. Their 45 new taxes and charges ignored the basic principle of ability to pay.

"They had five budgets and all five - all five - gave priority to the wealthiest."

Mr Martin said even Labour admitted that Fine Gael wanted to help the wealthiest most.

On families, the Fianna Fail leader said his party in power would extend maternity leave and introduce a childcare support tax credit.

It would also set up a help-to-buy scheme for new home owners and extend mortgage interest relief.

Mr Martin vowed to immediately increase rent supplement for those at risk of losing their homes.

In health, he said the party would "stop the privatisation agenda", recruit more staff and develop new services in mental health.

Mr Martin added that it was "long past time" for an investment plan to develop areas of Northern Ireland still damaged by the Troubles.

Turning to the centenary of the 1916, he said the Easter Rising had a special role in the foundation of Fianna Fail.

"They were no narrow nationalists," he said of the 1916 leaders.

"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.

"That's something the sectarian and false republicans of the Provisional movement must never be allowed to forget."

Mr Martin attacked government warnings that the electorate should not risk change during the recovery.

"The truth is our country can't risk five more years of this government," he added.

"We can't risk more chaos in our public services. We can't risk massive waste on bodies like Irish Water. We can't risk the growing inequality. We can't risk the charge after charge heaped on families.

"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."

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