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Sinn Féin's 'manifesto for change' pledges to build 100,000 homes and secure a referendum on Irish unity

The party has also committed to returning the pension age to 65 and abolishing the property tax.

Image: Niall Carson/PA

BUILDING HOMES, CAPPING mortgage rates and freezing rent for three years are among the commitments Sinn Féin have made to tackle the housing crisis if they are in government after the general election.

The party launched its election manifesto in Dublin this afternoon and among its pledges, it has said it will abolish the USC on the first €30,000 earned, saving workers up to €700  per annum.

Sinn Fein has also pledged to abolish the property tax, which it says will save families an average of €244 a year.

On housing, leader Mary Lou McDonald, flanked at the launch by the party’s finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty and housing spokesperson Eoin O Broin, said Sinn Féin would reduce rents by up to €1,500 a year via a refundable tax credit and freeze rent for three years.

The party also commits to building 100,000 homes over five years.

This would include council housing and affordable homes for renters and first-time buyers at a cost of €6.5 billion. 

“A whole generation of young people are now locked out of homeownership, thinking about emigrating and moving back in with their parents in their thirties,” McDonald said. 

“Sinn Féin will ensure affordable housing is available and really affordable to people,” she said. 

Her party has also pledged to give the Central Bank powers to cap mortgage interest rates.

Turning to retirement age, McDonald said people should have the right to retire at 65.

“Sending someone to the dole queue at the age of 65 is obscene,” she said, describing having to work longer as unfair.

“We will stop the pension age increase to 67 and return it to 65,” she said, arguing the measure is affordable and can be paid for from the social insurance fund.

She added: “Our manifesto has been costed by the relevant government departments, it is affordable.”

McDonald said people are looking for something new from government, including affordable homes, being able to see doctors and access to a decent education.

“This is a manifesto for giving workers and families a break, this is a manifesto for change,” she said.

On Irish unity, McDonald said her party would secure a referendum north and south of the border. 

She said that the conversation around Irish unity is already happening among nationalists and unionists.

She said there is no sense in anyone “burying their heads”.

“This needs to be a respectful conversation and it’s the job of the government in Dublin to shape that conversation and give a forum.

If we look to Britain, and lots of us have reflected on the disorder, and the chaos, which has arisen because of a lack of planning and informed debate on the issue of Brexit, we shouldn’t walk into a similar scenario. The rules of the Good Friday Agreement have to be observed.
I want us to win well and that’s why the planning is so important because it’s a space, not just for those of us that argue for unification, but also for people for whom unification is not their first choice, it’s very important that all of us politically, socially, economically, line up the options for people and the conversation.

“Brexit has accelerated this conversation. It’s reckless not to plan.”

- With reporting by Michelle Hennessy.

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