Fine Gael pledges to free up gardai from desk duties to fight crime
Uniformed gardai will be released from desk duties to fight frontline crime if Fine Gael is put back in power, party chiefs have said.
An extra 1,800 police will be recruited by a re-elected administration to stand up to ruthless gangs responsible for two recent killings, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said.
More vehicles and better use of IT will help keep communities safe and bring criminals to justice, the party also promised.
Ms Fitzgerald said: "We have not, and will not, stand idly by as thugs threaten the public safety of our communities or the sanctity of our homes. We will stand up to the ruthless gangs who show such scant regard for human life.
"We will stand up to those who outrageously threaten Ireland's journalists. Fine Gael will stand firm and unequivocal in defending freedom of the press."
The plans were unveiled amid a week of growing tension over gangland activity and threats to two journalists with Independent News and Media following their reporting on the feud which has led to three murders.
The idea of freeing up uniformed and desk-bound gardai to the front line has been on the table for years, most recently in reports by the Garda Inspectorate.
Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny was confronted by a small group of anti-water charge protesters on the campaign trail in Cork city.
"We also want to free up gardai from desks through civilianisation. Fine Gael's plan is based on using the resources created by a strong economy to invest in more gardai and more resources such as Garda vehicles and IT," Mr Kenny said.
"This will ensure a visible, mobile, dynamic policing force, to keep communities safe and bring criminals to justice."
Labour went on the offensive on health policy, pledging to hire 1,428 GPs and to make visits free.
It said it will cut the cost of some essential medicines by capping prescription fees at 20 euro and shifting the threshold for the drug payment scheme to 100 euro.
The party also committed to hiring another 290 paramedics.
Tanaiste Joan Burton said the party would work towards universal health care if put back in office by creating more primary care centres and offering more nurse-led care.
A new cabinet seat would be created to drive that agenda, she said.
"Our ultimate aim is to provide a comprehensive system of primary care free at the point of access," Ms Burton said.
"This will take time. It will take money. And it will take ambition and determination to bring it about."
Fianna Fail released further details of its childcare and family offerings including increasing maternity leave from 26 weeks to 30 and the 2,000-euro childcare support credit.
The party also plans to increase child benefit by 10 euro a month.
Elsewhere, Sinn Fein claimed it would ensure 250,000 jobs were created over the next five years.
"After five years of Fine Gael and Labour in government we are left with many people still unemployed and with many people working but still struggling to put a roof over their heads and food on the table," spokesman Peadar Toibin said.
"Many more have left the country to get good quality jobs.
"Sinn Fein believes in quality jobs in Ireland. We believe in jobs in Donegal rather than Darwin, in Meath rather than Melbourne, in Tallaght rather than Toronto."