MARY LOU MCDONALD and a selection of younger Sinn Féin election candidates gathered in Temple Bar this morning to let people know what they intended to do for the young voters of Ireland, and fielded some questions about Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy while they were at it.
McDonald gathered with Cork South Central councillor and Dáil hopeful Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire and Clare candidate Noeleen Moran outside the Irish Rock ‘n’ Roll Museum Experience and outlined the Sinn Féin policies that would benefit the younger adults of Ireland.
After the trio laid out their plans should they be elected to government, McDonald faced questions on anti-austerity as well as Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy.
Thomas Murphy was convicted of tax-fraud in December, he is due to be sentenced in two weeks’ time. Previously, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has called Murphy a ‘good Republican’.
When questioned on whether she hoped that Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy would have the chance to vote in Louth on 26 February, McDonald had this to say:
“I think in the long litany of really stupid questions that is now the prize winner.”
“Whoever [someone] votes for is entirely a matter to themselves.
It’s 11 o’clock on a Saturday morning… whoever anybody votes for is their own business, obviously I want the maximum number of people to vote for Sinn Féin.
Following this, McDonald was asked whether she thought an anti-austerity platform had failed in other European countries, such as Greece and Portugal, and whether Sinn Féin’s plans might fail in Ireland.
“The anti-austerity thing has to work out for us. We live here and it’s our job firstly… to protect the living standards and the service levels that our citizens enjoy,” said McDonald.
We could have a very long discussion here around not just the anti-austerity position, but the imposition of austerity certainly did not work, and I don’t think you’d argue that.”
Plans for the youth
Cuts to USC, the dismantling of the JobBridge programme, supplying a living wage and investing in infrastructure were all touted as policies and plans to provide more opportunities for ‘young people’ in Ireland.
“The number of people who have been forced to leave Ireland to seek work and opportunities and to make their futures and have their families elsewhere is glaringly apparent and it has really wounded communities and families,” McDonald told reporters.
People had no option and had to go, there was no choice for people.
Elements included in Sinn Féin’s manifesto that the party says will help the youth are:
- The abolition of third-level fees over the lifetime of the next government.
- Investment in infrastructure to provide more jobs.
- The re-invigoration of the construction sector.
- A reverse to the cuts made to the jobseekers’ allowance for under-26s.
When questioned over why the party isn’t abolishing the Universal Social Charge (USC) entirely, McDonald said that it wasn’t a viable option as proper investment in public services was needed.
“Our taxation proposals are balanced in such a way as they will give immediate relief to families,” she said.
It would be better had the USC never been introduced, and I wish that we were in a position to say that we were going to abolish it entirely.
Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said that younger people had borne the brunt of the recession and that investment was needed to bring people back to Ireland.
“I probably know more people in Perth in western Australia than in most Irish counties,” he said.
“What we need to do is create the type of Ireland that young people want to return home to.”
Noeleen Moran said that half of her family had emigrated and that there weren’t enough opportunities for people in Ireland.
“We need to abolish JobBridge. We need proper employment schemes to support decent jobs in our counties and in our towns and villages across the country,” she said.
McDonald faces tough competition in her Dublin Central constituency, with four sitting TDs and only three seats, however she is expected to retain her seat.
Ó Laoghaire has a very tough battle to get a foothold in Cork South Central, where five TDs are already battling it out for four seats – including the leader of Fianna Fáil Micheál Martin and Agriculture minister Simon Coveney.
Meanwhile, Noeleen Moran faces stiff competition in Clare, with popular Labour TD Michael McNamara and Fine Gael’s Pat Breen both having strong bases there.