Belfast Telegraph

Adams sets out government plans

Sinn Fein will scrap property and water charges while bringing in a new wealth tax if it can form an Irish government next year, party leader Gerry Adams has told its annual conference.

If handed the reins of power in Dublin, Mr Adams said his party would introduce a third rate of income tax for the rich, which would take an extra seven cent from every euro earned over 100,000 euro.

Turning to Northern Ireland, he called on working class loyalists and unionists to join Sinn Fein in a "common platform" pushing for political and social progress.

"We need reminding again and again that our flag is Orange," he said.

"Orange as well as green. Orange is part of what we are."

Loyalist musicians from the Londonderry Bands Forum attended the Ard Fheis (annual conference) in Derry earlier in the day.

Mr Adams said his party will next week introduce legislation in Dublin proposing Irish citizens in the North and overseas be given the right to vote for the Irish President.

The measure has already been recommended by a Constitutional Convention sitting in the Republic.

During his keynote speech to the gathering, Mr Adams positioned Sinn Fein as anti-austerity, pro-business and all-island party.

The leader said he believes his party, which shares devolved power in Belfast with the Democratic Unionist Party, could also lead a government in Dublin after next year's Irish general election.

"I believe we can win that mandate," he said.

"Sinn Fein wants to lead the next government."

But he ruled out being a junior coalition partner with either the mainstream Fine Gael or Fianna Fail.

Mr Adams said his party's rise in popularity in the south has sparked more strident opposition and he insisted a "tsunami of untruth and smears against us" didn't work.

Fianna Fail wrecked the economy, while the Fine Gael/Labour coalition was among the most regressive in the State's history, he said.

"There has been a huge growth in social inequality," he added.

"A third of our children now live in consistent poverty.

"Public money which should be used to end the scandal of patients lying on trolleys, to house our citizens, and to create jobs is being used to repay private bank debt."

In a broadside at mainstream parties characterising Sinn Fein policies as fairy tale economics, he said they had delivered "nightmare economics".

"They refused to socialise the wealth. But they have no problem socialising the debt," he said.

He also accused Taoiseach Enda Kenny of refusing to negotiate with Ireland's bailout masters on banking debt heaped on Irish taxpayers.

"If and when Sinn Fein have the mandate we will work with others across the EU to find a sustainable long-term solution to the Eurozone debt crisis," he added.

But he said his party was "pro enterprise" and would work for a competitive economy which creates "real jobs" with decent pay and conditions with a progressive tax system "where everyone pays their fair share".

On the national question, Mr Adams said politics was in flux in both parts of the island and many people believe it makes no sense to have two economies, two education systems, two health systems, two tax codes and two currencies.

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