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Sunday 11 December 2016

Martin insists FF are more 'prudent' now despite sweeteners

Fianna Fail's Micheal Martin (Collins)
Fianna Fail's Micheal Martin (Collins)

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has denied he is repeating the mistakes of the past, despite pledging a series of sweeteners in the party's General Election manifesto.

Mr Martin said the manifesto was not a throwback to 2007, adding that Fianna Fail was adopting a far more "prudent" approach to tax cuts and spending than other parties.

Among the key measures included in the manifesto are the replacement of Irish Water with a new slimmed-down agency, the abolition of prescription charges, and a €30 weekly increase in the old-age pension.

The party is placing a significant emphasis on childcare and has pledged to introduce a €2,000 childcare support credit for parents, extending maternity by four weeks, as well as increasing child benefit by €10 per month.

It is proposed that the Universal Social Charge (USC) - introduced by Fianna Fail during the economic crisis - will be scrapped by 2021 for those earning up to €80,000. The party said it would hire more doctors and nurses and put more gardai on the streets.

A new savings scheme for first-time buyers is also included in the manifesto, which was launched by the party in Dublin City yesterday.

Asked whether he was repeating the same mistakes of the past, Mr Martin said his party's manifesto was independently costed and represented a "prudent and affordable plan".

"We've taken our blame and we've acknowledged we got things wrong," he said.

But the launch was once again overshadowed by questions over whether Mr Martin would be willing to lead his party into a coalition with Fine Gael.

On at least six occasions, Mr Martin refused to categorically rule out such a scenario, as well as the option of supporting Fine Gael in a minority-led government.

Ridiculous

"This is getting to the ridiculous in my view in terms of hypothetical sort of questions, you can ask 100 hypothetical questions," the Cork South Central TD said.

"I'm telling you where Fianna Fail want to be - we want to be the lead party in the next government."

"I'm not going any further because this is an election campaign in which there is a real choice on issues in the political parties and I think the real choice needs to be issues."

Mr Martin also laughed off suggestions that he could end up serving as Taoiseach with Labour Party deputy leader Alan Kelly as his Tanaiste.

"I just look at the strained version of Joan Burton every day and it's a very difficult proposition," he said.

Mr Martin added that members of the Cabinet that oversaw the economic collapse will be considered for ministerial positions again if Fianna Fail is in government.

He also hit out at "election slogans" which call for changes to the country's abortion laws.

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