The core objective of Fine Gael and Labour in this election is to say to people that there is no alternative – we must simply let them keep going.
Our country cannot risk letting them keep going. We cannot risk their short-term, divisive and unfair approach. We cannot risk keeping going with the crisis after crisis they have caused in public services.
That is why Fianna Fáil is determined to offer the people an alternative. This manifesto sets out that alternative. A fairer approach which shows how we can have a strong economy and a decent society. An Ireland which serves all of its people.
This manifesto shows how we can cut costs for working families and invest in vital public services. It is built on showing our core priorities and what they mean to people at different stages of their lives. It reflects what we have heard from an unprecedented programme of reaching out to communities and listening to their concerns, hopes and aspirations.
It is not a stand-alone document. It draws on over 40 policy documents and 110 pieces of legislation which we have published touching every area of public life.
Fianna Fáil is a party of the centre ground – one which sees economic and social issues as deeply linked. We believe that an economy can only be strong if it is built on a strong sense of social solidarity and if long-term investment is a priority.
We are a party founded by radicals committed to finding new ways forward for their country and distinguished by their commitment to all communities.
The contrast between this approach and the sectional, divisive approach of others grows deeper by the day.
The approach we have taken in this manifesto is completely different to that of all of the other parties. We identify what we believe are four vital priorities for our country and we outline a detailed and credible plan for action over the next five years.
The starting point for this is obviously the issue of what resources our economy can create. The growth which is currently seen in the economy comes from specific long-term strengths, most importantly the skills and enterprise of the Irish people built up over many years. These long-term factors, allied to an improved international situation, have delivered the recovery and we believe they will generate significant resources.
However, we are clear that it is irresponsible for parties to make promises irrespective of growth outcomes. In the case of Fine Gael, their policy priority would directly undermine public finances if there was a downturn.
The focus of our core priorities is on productive investment and public services coming first – particularly in health, housing, pensions and schools. We have outlined spending commitments and taxation reductions of €8.3bn out of the likely available figure of €8.6bn.
We will invest in services and communities on the basis of a 2:1 ratio of spending to tax reductions.
Furthermore, we have prepared for future volatility. We were the first party to suggest a Rainy Day Fund and we are the only party to set out a legislative approach to the protection of this fund from short-term political manipulation.
If the revenue projections do not materialise our priority over the next five years will be on protecting and strengthening vital public services.
As we promised, we have also taken a radically new approach to the costing of our promises. Just as others do, we have sought figures from government concerning the cost of specific promises. However the basis for these costings is never published and parties always fall back on the phrase ‘it’s been fully costed by the Department’ without showing what has been costed and how.
We should all remember that the huge list of promises broken by Fine Gael and Labour were once promoted with the claim that they were ‘fully costed’. Fine Gael and Sinn Fein, in particular, have provided costings which cannot deliver the policies they promise.
We proposed that the Fiscal Council be asked to cost every party’s promises but the government wouldn’t agree. What we have done is to commission an independent review of our promises which we are also publishing this morning.
This review has been carried out by an international economic consultancy with experience in reviewing the Irish economy and with a track record of reports trusted by independent authorities. They were asked to review if the costings we provided were reasonable and affordable within current economic projections.
As you will see from the report, the costings have been fully reviewed and found to be reasonable. In fact, we have chosen not to reflect any of the extra revenue to government which would be generated by the policies outlined.
The decision of Fine Gael to publish a list of promises which exceed the available revenue, undermine the tax base and are not fully funded shows yet again how they have learned nothing from the past.
Our plan for “An Ireland for all” is built around four core priorities.
· Create decent jobs and support enterprise
· Cut costs for families and improve the services they rely on
· Tackle crime and develop community services
· Secure home ownership and tackle homelessness
These core priorities will benefit you at every stage of your life.
A €2,000 child care tax credit
A reduction in the average class size to 23:1
Removing the USC for earners up to €80,000
Abolishing Irish Water and water charges
Retention of mortgage interest relief and creating a first time buyers’ savings scheme
15,000 Gardaí and mandatory sentences for burglars
A €30 increase in the pension and the abolition of prescription charges
1. Create decent jobs and support enterprise
Our first priority is to ensure that job creators are given the right framework of taxes, credit and supports to thrive and prosper.
But it’s just as important that the quality of jobs created can pay the bills, meet the mortgage re-payments, clothe the children and cover a night out.
We do not want an economy built on precarious contracts and low pay.
“An Ireland for all” means that what has been a two tier recovery will be spread to all regions of the country.
As part of our plan to secure “An Ireland for all” we will:
– Set up a full state enterprise bank to support small businesses
– Equalise tax treatment for the self employed
– Reduce Capital Gains Tax for entrepreneurs to 10% and extend chargeable gains to €15m
– Expand apprenticeships and reform internships
– Roll out universal fibre broadband to the home and 4G mobile phone coverage
-Protect and retain our Corporation Tax rate
2. Cut costs for families and improve the services they rely on
Ordinary families are working just to stand still. Instead of building a better future for their children they are struggling just to hold on to what they have.
“An Ireland for all” means extra money in their pocket, lower childcare costs, a strong education system, a fair welfare structure and a publicly-funded health care system.
Our priority is to give ordinary families a break and invest in the services that they rely on. We will:
· Abolish USC up to €80,000
· Abolish Irish Water and scrap water charges for the next five years
· €10 increase in working age payments
· Create a new €2,000 childcare tax credit and increase child benefit by €10
· Reduce class sizes to 23:1
· Reactivate the National Treatment Purchase Fund
· Hire 4,000 nurses, 5,500 teachers, 500 consultants, 250 GPs
· Abolish Prescription Charges
3. Tackle crime and develop community services
The shocking events of the past few weeks are only the latest proof of the need to invest in the fight against crime.
We brought in the Special Criminal Court and we will keep the Special Criminal Court.
The epidemic of burglaries across Ireland is leaving families and in particular, older people living in fear. We have a clear plan to tackle crime. We will:
· Increase Garda numbers to 15,000
· Impose mandatory sentences for repeat burglars
· Create a sentencing council
In relation to the desperate attacks of Fine Gael, they took a moratorium and extended it by five years – our commitment, and our policy in recent years, is for a sustained and targeted increase in the forces of law and order.
In addition we will develop and support communities. We will:
· Create a Cabinet Minister for Community Development & Support
· Introduce an additional cost of disability top up payment of €10 for Disability, Carers, Invalidity and Blind payments
· Restore Town Councils and create new community councils
· Fundamentally reform the Oireachtas to make it more accountable and expert.
4. Secure home ownership & tackle homelessness
Fianna Fáil believes that owning your own home is good for families and good for communities. For a whole generation that dream is slipping away under rising rents, high deposits and a lack of supply. Our vision for “An Ireland for all” will secure home ownership and build 150,000 new homes including 45,000 new social housing homes. We will:
· Create a First Time Buyers’ Savings Scheme
· Retain Mortgage Interest Relief up to 2020
· Create a National Home Building Bond
· Launch a new €5.4bn social housing program
In addition as part of this priority we are committed to ensuring older people can live independently in their own home. We will:
· Provide 3,500 extra home care packages & 2.2m extra home help hours
· Restore Housing Adaption grants
· Raise the Living Alone Allowance to €15 a week
· Empowering older people will be central in “An Ireland for all”.
This is our clear plan, a vision for “An Ireland for all”. It seeks to build on the best traditions of our country and society. A century on from the bold vision of our founding generation, “An Ireland for all” will prepare our republic for a second century of independence and it will secure a fair and sustainable future for all of our people, a Republic we can be proud of.