THE SOCIAL DEMOCRATS will maintain current rates of Universal Social Charge (USC) and have pledged to set up an Irish version of the NHS in their general election manifesto.
The new party, which launched in July of last year, is running 14 candidates for the Dáil and targeting at least seven seats in order to have parliamentary speaking rights.
Jointly-led by former independent TDs Stephen Donnelly, Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall, the SocDems are not ruling any other party out of post-election government negotiations.
“We’ll be saying to the electorate: here is our platform. After the people have their say there will be conversations to be had,” a well-placed party source told TheJournal.ie
Under proposals that were launched today, the SocDems are not putting forward any changes to current rates of USC, arguing that the tax base should not be eroded any further, with the €4 billion it generates annually vital for investment in public services.
This is in contrast to Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil who have all pledged to phase out USC on lower and middle income earners, with Fine Gael pledging to eventually abolish it altogether. Sinn Féin has promised to change thresholds to reduce the USC burden on low income earners, while Renua is advocating a flat 23% tax on all income.
Labour TD Anne Ferris described the party’s stance on USC as “a major letdown for working families”.
The SocDems election manifesto instead promises to reduce the cost of living and put money back in people’s pockets through greater investment in public services. Proposals include:
- Investing €103 million in free primary education
- Introducing paid parental leave for the first 12 months of a child’s life
- Reducing public transport fares through an increased state subsidy to operators
- The abolition of water charges
- Halving of prescription charges from €2.50 to €1.25
- Free GP care for all children
- Reducing energy costs by giving the regulator greater powers to force utility companies to pass on falling wholesale prices to consumers
Speaking at the launch on Dublin’s O’Connell Street, Murphy said:
What we’ve set out in this is not a shopping list. “We’ve set out a vision that is integrated.
We’ve had far too much short-term thinking in this country. We need to have longer vision for things that take longer to implement, for example a national health service.
Donnelly said a “fraction” of the promises made ahead of the 2011 general election have been delivered.
Unlike Fianna Fáil before the recession and unlike Fine Gael and Labour now we would not erode the tax base, we would maintain it. We would use that revenue to get us ready for the next macro shock that is coming our way from China or somewhere else.
Donnelly said the party would use this money, billions of euro, to invest in things like healthcare, education, housing and backing Irish businesses.
He noted that since making the move from the private sector to politics five years ago he has been “absolutely shocked at how politics is run in this country”.
“The cartel is not about to change … it will only be through challenges from new parties.”
The SocDems are also proposing a radical overhaul of the health system with the introduction of what’s being dubbed an ‘Irish NHS’.
This will be modelled on the UK National Health Service which is free at the point of delivery and funded through general taxation.
The party is proposing to overhaul the health service within a ten-year period by switching from acute hospitals to community care, ensuring universal access to primary and community healthcare, and ending the two-tier system.
The party is also promising to repeal the Eighth Amendment, which enshrines the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn in the Constitution.
It also wants to examine the introduction of a living wage of €11.50 subject to further consultation and mandate the Low Pay Commission to study the use of internships by Irish employers.
The manifesto will also contain a proposal to establish a community banking sector. The resources of credit unions and post offices will be used to establish full banking services in communities. It’s being billed as banking ‘for the people, by the people’.
Since launching last July, the SocDems have had around 6,000 people sign-up through their website.
Although the party does not have any formal membership structure, sources say there are over 1,000 people actively canvassing for the 14 SocDem candidates across the country.
- with reporting by Órla Ryan