GOVERNMENT MINISTERS HAVE been accused of trying to be “the coolest kid in the schoolyard by chasing headlines” over the Garda Commissioner row on day two of the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis.
Thousands of delegates have gathered at the INEC in Killarney this weekend where the party has been debating and voting on hundreds of motions, including one that would allow the government to shut down a social media site where it leads to the death of a citizen.
This afternoon, a proposed amendment to that motion was defeated before delegates easily voted down the motion itself.
In the same session, a call to raise the age at which a person can buy alcohol from an off-licence to 21 was defeated while a proposal calling on the government to regulate cash-for-gold shops was passed.
Local and European election candidates addressed delegates during a two-hour televised session. Party leader Micheál Martin delivers a keynote speech at 8.30pm tonight.
In a session on justice, Senator Thomas Byrne criticised Alan Shatter for the closure of rural garda stations – a view echoed by several delegates who spoke – and said that ministers had been acting immaturely in the row over the Garda Commissioner calling the actions of whistleblowers ‘disgusting’.
He said that in recent days each minister is “trying to be the coolest kid in the schoolyard by chasing headlines”.
The party’s justice spokesperson Niall Collins slammed Shatter, accusing him of arrogance and abuse of power over the several controversies surrounding the gardaí. He said: “He’s not up to the job and it’s time for him to.”
The Ard Fheis heard calls for the establishment of an independent police commission to take decisions on the governance and accountability of the gardaí away from the Minister for Justice.
Turnout was low for a session entitled ‘social equality for all’ this morning (above). One delegate said that when Labour took office it had taken all of its policies outside Leinster House and “made a big bonfire”.
The abolition of the bereavement grant in the last Budget was condemned with social protection spokesperson Willie O’Dea saying: “The reality is when you die, from now on, you’re on your own.”
The Limerick TD claimed that in his own constituency there are 32 applicants for every available job and that 250,000 people have emigrated in the last three years seeking employment abroad.
Earlier, the Ard Fheis heard from Tom Healy, of the Nevin Economic Research Institure (NERI), who said that a year before the financial crisis every major party had advocated tax cuts.
He argued that universal social charge was a good policy introduced by the previous Fianna Fáil government and said greater work should be done to emphasise how it pays for public services.
In a session on finance and public expenditure, the party’s Ireland South MEP Brian Crowley praised the late Brian Lenihan and said the former finance minister was forced not to burn the bondholders by the ECB.
“There’s no allowance given that Ireland saved the euro by the actions that we took,” he said, criticising the lack of progress on separating Ireland’s banking and sovereign debt.
This view was echoed by the the party’s finance spokesperson Micheal McGrath. He said the Irish economy is “like a patient who has come out of intensive care, in deep shock, with a long road ahead”.
He slammed the sell-off of the IBRC loan book and criticised banks in relation to mortgage arrears and lending to SMEs.
Of the coalition he said: “A bit less backslapping and self-congratulation and a bit more focus on the real issues affecting the people of this country.”
Among proposals heard this morning were Galway delegate David Burke’s idea that 10 per cent of the local property tax be ring fenced for use by those who pay it for use on improving their estates.
- Follow @oconnellhugh for updates from the INEC this weekend.
First published 10.37am