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Dublin: 3 °C Tuesday 18 February, 2020
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Parties settle into the campaign trail: No increase for bankers and promises of jobs for all

It’s day two on the election campaign, with a focus on the economy.

Day two of the campaign kicked off with talk about the jobs and the economy.
Day two of the campaign kicked off with talk about the jobs and the economy.

FIANNA FÁIL HAS said it has no plans to lift the bankers pay cap if it gets into government after the next general election.

The pay cap was introduced after the recession to bank staff employed by banks in which the State is a shareholder.

A number of bank bosses, as well as the former acting governor of the Central Bank said the pay limit is limiting the pool of candidates for senior positions.

A report on whether bankers pay should be increased has been carried out and given to the Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, but he is yet to publish it or state whether Fine Gael intends to lift the cap.

Speaking to the media today, Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath said:

“We have no proposals to lift the restrictions in place in respect of the the pay cap. There is a punitive tax regime, as you know that, applies to the payment of bonuses currently in the banking system.

“But until issues such as the tracker mortgage scandal, are dealt with fully and as a significant work on that yet to do through the Ombudsman, and potentially through the court system, and until we have a senior executive accountability regime, which has been promised but again, not yet introduced, then we certainly have no plans to revisit those issue.”

On the issue of insurance, McGrath said his party will consider a referendum to cap personal injury awards, something Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has also said.

“It may be necessary,” said McGrath. 

Income tax

While not going into specifics about the party’s tax proposals, stating that all will be revealed in the manifesto in the coming days, he did state that there will need to be movement in relation to income tax, adding that Fianna Fail will have a tax package but that the overall priority remains on spending and investment.

“Our approach will be as it has been at every point in the last decade, and if elected to government we will propose budgets which are sustainable and responsible,” he continued.

“We need to ensure that our economy is also balanced and focused on SMEs who are very ambitious and employ up to one million people across our country.

“To prepare for a possible international downturn in the future, we believe that the rainy day fund is an essential part of fiscal policy and indeed needs to be expanded.

“We believe that the emphasis will even be further on investment on public services at the end of the day. We are not going to be precise because we are working through the detail of that, making sure that everything is completely assessed comprehensively,” he added.

While Fianna Fáil were keen to state that they would be watching the purse strings if they enter intro government, Fine Gael were out and about talking about the economy.

Finance and Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe was asked if Fine Gael can be relied on to manage public’s finances given controversies over National Children’s Hospital:

“I have absolutely acknowledged that there are things that went on in relation to the costing of that project… that I got wrong. I acknowledged that at the time of the difficulty and I would now point to what we have done since then.”

On the same issue, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar acknowledged that the “government got the costings wrong on the National Children’s Hospital, and learnt from that”.

“That’s why we’ve put in place the changes that will ensure that doesn’t happen with the other big projects that are happening like Metrolink and BusConnects, for example. The only money that was truly wasted on the National Children’s Hospital project was the €35m spent by Fianna Fáil when they failed to build a national children’s hospital on the Mater site. If they hadn’t made such a mess of it back then, we’d have a children’s hospital right now.”

Varadkar promised tax cuts and increased wages but insisted there can be no return to the “boom to bust” economic policies of the past.
He also promised increased wages and said Fine Gael would create 200,000 new jobs by 2025.

“While wages had grown 3.4% per year since the economy had recovered, they needed to increase further.

“We don’t think that’s enough. A lot of people are struggling with the cost of living, whether it’s childcare, saving for a mortgage or saving to go to college,” he said.

“In order to do that, we need to make sure that we put more money back in people’s pockets. We will do that in a number of ways. For example, increasing wages, the public sector pay deal and by increasing the minimum wage.”

He also promised increased wages and said Fine Gael would create 200,000 new jobs by 2025.

“While wages had grown 3.4% per year since the economy had recovered, they needed to increase further.

“We don’t think that’s enough. A lot of people are struggling with the cost of living, whether it’s childcare, saving for a mortgage or saving to go to college,” he said.

“In order to do that, we need to make sure that we put more money back in people’s pockets. We will do that in a number of ways. For example, increasing wages, the public sector pay deal and by increasing the minimum wage.”

002 Social Democrats GE

Other political parties were also out and about today, with the Social Democrats kicking off their campaign with four key priorities.

The party wants to see a ‘save as you pay’ front-loaded home insulation grant scheme brought in, as well as a focus on a right to flexible work – something Fine Gael was also promoting today.

Catherine Murphy and Roísín Shortall reiterated their call for the establishment of an Independent Anti-Corruption Agency and called for more housing, and an increase in public transport and cycling provisions.

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