Battle turns dirty as FG and Labour fight on economy
PROBABLE new government partners Fine Gael and Labour turned viciously on each other's economic policies and Micheal Martin became embroiled in a bitter row over his Fianna Fail links to developers as the election campaign turned dirty.
Fine Gael Finance spokes-man Michael Noonan hit out at Labour's manifesto, saying it could actually slow down economic recovery and damage job creation after Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said Mr Noonan's criticism of Labour was "old fashioned, out of date and wrong".
Mr Gilmore, speaking at the launch of Labour's manifesto, denied Labour was a high tax party, as claimed by Mr Noonan on Thursday, saying it would not hike income tax for individuals earning under €100,000.
Fine Gael's €16bn fiscal package had a "black hole" of €8bn because the growth projections were based on an out-of-date paper produced by the ESRI during the middle of last year, he said.
The Labour leader also charged that Fine Gael's plans included stealth taxes, citing a €21 cut per month in child benefit for a family with two children.
In a statement later, Mr Noonan said: "Labour is now officially a high tax party. The Labour manifesto will damage economic growth, slow down the economy and hammer job creation."
Meanwhile, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, who agreed to relinquish his €88,000 ministerial severance package if re-elected, was dragged into renewed allegations from Fine Gael over his involvement in former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's contacts with the Cork property developer Owen O'Callaghan.
Both Mr Martin and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny flung mud at each other as they entered a crucial weekend of campaigning for the February 25 election.
Fianna Fail accused Mr Kenny of engaging in "cynical tactics" and pocketing €220,000 in severance and pension payments while a sitting TD.
Mr Kenny said the question of paying back the money "does not arise".