Taoiseach Enda Kenny rules out coalition deal with Fianna Fail
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has vowed to get rid of the Universal Social Charge, increase welfare and hire another 10,183 doctors, nurses, gardai, teachers and social workers if put back in power.
Launching the Fine Gael manifesto, the leader ruled out a coalition with Fianna Fail despite a slip in the latest opinion polls as the election campaign passes the halfway point.
In a 10 billion euro package if put back into government, Mr Kenny vowed to abolish the USC taxes over five years while penalising 100,000 euro earners, introduce a minimum wage of 10.50 euro, bring in free GP for all children by 2019 and offer working parents a second free pre-school year and a 2,000 euro childcare grant for those with children aged nine months to 36 months.
On welfare Fine Gael vowed to increase the old age pension by 25 euro a week and boost payments to carers, the disabled and sick by 2 0 euro a week.
The policies also include 31,000 new apprenticeships, appointing case workers to everyone who has been out of work for more than a year, automatic voter registration for 18-year-olds and Seanad reform.
Mr Kenny claimed other parties would risk the economic recovery.
"We learned from the mistakes of past governments and now we want to finish the job in the people's interest," he said.
"Now is not the time to take risks with Ireland's economy. This stage of recovery demands stability, security, cool heads and steady hands and a long term plan focused on building the recovery."
At halfway point of the campaign the latest poll, by Red C for the Sunday Business Post, showed slight drops for Fine Gael and gains for Sinn Fein despite the party facing intense scrutiny over its justice policies.
Fianna Fail marked the 11th day of the contest with an allegation that Fine Gael was abusing its position in the outgoing government to get support from the business community.
Billy Kelleher, the opposition's director of elections, said the party had taken a "s inister turn".
"In a development which is unprecedented in modern Irish politics it has been revealed that Fine Gael has been hosting party rallies at businesses who have gained significantly from state contracts and support by state agencies," he said.
Fianna Fail have written to the s ecretary general to the Government calling for an investigation into the claims.
Meanwhile, striking a chord with their current coalition partners, the Labour Party unveiled their latest ad with the focus on "stability and balance".
Elsewhere, Sinn Fein focused on education with the party claiming it would reverse the austerity cuts which saw reductions in the numbers of special needs assistants and increased the pupil-teacher ratio.
Among their initiatives are to reduce the ratio to 20:1 and to 15:1 for Deis schools in disadvantaged areas while also introducing 1,000 apprenticeships for trainee teachers.
Spokesman Jonathan O'Brien said: "Studies show that one in five secondary school parents have to get loans in order to cover the costs of school.
"Yet the Government continues to subsidise private schools with millions in taxpayers' money, reinforcing a two-tier system of education."