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Stephen Kilkenny; PA

FG-Labour war: Gilmore says families 'screwed' by austerity plans

The one-time prospective coalition partners continue their electoral war of words over their rival economic plans.

FINE GAEL AND LABOUR have continued their war of words today, as the parties who once looked like being set to share power continued to drive further wedges between themselves.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore has labelled his prospective coalition partner “the stealth tax party”, after his party this morning published ads in national newspapers attacking Fine Gael for its plans to cut child benefit.

Canvassing in the West today, Gilmore said Fine Gael’s plans were akin to those being pushed by the Conservative Party in the UK – which had led the British economy back to the verge of recession, RTÉ reports.

The current election was a choice between electing parties who could create job opportunities, or choosing to be “screwed” by Fine Gael’s cutbacks.

His attack had followed a defence from Michael Noonan this morning, when Noonan rubbished Labour’s newspaper ads and said Gilmore’s party would charge families even more than his own.

Though he conceded that Fine Gael’s economic plan would ultimately see the average family hit with new charges and deductions of €1,785 a year, Labour’s plans would hit families harder, charging them over €3,000 a year.

Noonan was speaking at the launch of his party’s plans for families in mortgage difficulties, where Fine Gael promised to “squeeze the banks before they squeeze their customers” and pledging to cap mortgage interest supplements paid to banks.

His party colleague Brian Hayes has also been making hay from an Irish Times piece, which described allegations that Fine Gael’s plans had a €5bn “black hole” as “bunkum” – saying Labour had “flip-flopped” on many two major issues in as many weeks.

Fianna Fáil has also attacked Fine Gael, with Darragh O’Brien complaining that its plans for public service reform would see one in three civil servants lose their jobs.

Elsewhere today, Sinn Féin has published its plans for political reform; the Green Party published its plan for social reform, while Fianna Fáil launched its own education policy.

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