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Fianna Fáil promises affordable housing, a rural crime bureau and a tobacco-free Ireland

The 150-page policy document was unveiled this afternoon.
Jan 24th 2020, 2:15 PM 17,863 118

FIANNA FÁIL HAS unveiled its election manifesto with a promise of an “ambitious, deliverable and sustainable” programme of policies.

Party leader Micheál Martin said it was time for delivery in government and an end to the “spin” he claimed characterised Fine Gael’s almost decade in power.

The 150-page policy document was unveiled in Dublin hours before Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar is due to publish his own party’s manifesto elsewhere in the city.

“Ireland has many strengths, but we also face many challenges,” Martin said.

The biggest of these is to make sure we have a country that serves all of its people.

The manifesto sets out how the party would use the €11 billion of financial resources predicted to be available to the next government over a five-year term.

Fianna Fáil will hold back 1.2 billion of that pot and will deploy a 4:1 investment to tax cuts ratio in spending the remaining €9.8 billion.

Plans include:

– An increase in the weekly childcare subsidy from 20 euro a week to 80 euro,

– Reduction of capital gains tax from 33% to 25%,

– Increase the state pension by five euro a week,

– Abolishing prescription charges,

– Increasing Garda numbers to 16,000,

– Deliver 50,000 new affordable homes and directly build 50,000 new social housing units.

On taxation, Fianna Fáil will reduce the much-hated Universal Social Charge rate from 4.5%to 3.5% and increase the standard rate income tax band by €3,000 for a single person and €6,000 for a couple.

The party promises an increase in the home carers tax credit to €2,000 and increase the earned income tax credit to €1,600. There will also be a €2,000 child minders tax credit.

The plans also include steps to help first-time buyers and tackle hospital waiting times.

The party also commits to double the investment in the National Treatment Purchase Fund to €200 million.

Fianna Fáil will abolish prescription charges at a cost of €68m, scrap hospital car parking fees, at a cost of €12m. Fine Gael will also tackle parking fees at hospital, pledging to cap it at a daily rate of €10.

Martin is always keen to state that he brought in the smoking ban to Ireland – so it is no surprise that Fianna Fáil promises to make Ireland a tobacco free country by 2030.

The Fianna Fail housing policies have been well flagged in recent weeks, with the announcement of the SSIA-savings style scheme for first-time buyers, while also promising to retain the Help-to-Buy Scheme.

The party is promising the delivery of 50,000 affordable homes, with a price tag of €250,000. There will be a tax credit for renters of €600 as well as a promise by Martin to re-jig the Rent Pressure Zones percentage rate below the current 4%. 

The party wants to ban co-living and promises to legislate to ensure cuckoo funds are prohibited from buying up large developments. 

Fianna Fáil will introduce a Kids Go Free scheme for public transport for under 18s costing €27 million, and also roll out a pilot scheme in rural schools to help learner drivers get more training while in school. 

Martin said they are committed to giving free contraception to women, with the party leader hitting out at Health Minister Simon Harris for making “glib” promises to Irish women about IVF supports. He said the funding dedicated so far is too little too late, adding that he will make a priority if successful in this election. 

Two recent opinion polls have put Fianna Fáil ahead of Fine Gael ahead of next month’s ballot. 

Martin has ruled out a “grand coalition” with his rivals after a poll which is expected to see continued fracturing of the vote.

Varadkar has suggested that he might countenance working with Fianna Fáil in government if next month’s election produced another inconclusive result.

The last Fine Gael government was sustained in power through a historic confidence and supply deal with Fianna Fáil.

The landmark pact between two parties founded from opposing sides of Ireland’s civil war of the 1920s was struck following the 2016 general election.

This election campaign has focused on Fine Gael’s stewardship of the economy as well as social issues.

Homelessness, health and proposals on the qualifying age for the state pension have been hotly debated.

With reporting by Christina Finn

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