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Is it true that Fianna Fáil has no policies? Well, not really...

It’s a constant claim thrown at the party, but it turns out it has more than a few ideas.

“YOU HAVE NO policies.”

It’s a claim that’s being constantly levelled at Fianna Fáil these days, particularly from Fine Gael and its press office which delivered this deep burn before Christmas:

fg-press-release-ff

Surely, this can’t be the case?

It turns out it isn’t really. So we’ve taken a look at some Fianna Fáil policy documents to see where the party stands on a number of key issues:

Political reform

The Irish people and their country have changed but their political system has not.

That’s a line highlighted in the party’s Real Political Reform policy discussion document, where it notes that “past political failures will continue to reappear if there is no substantive reform”.

Mahon Tribunal Party leader Micheál Martin Source: Julien Behal

The paper states that, despite all parties agreeing that changes needed to take place following the 2011 General Election, Fine Gael and Labour have engaged in “a concerted push to actually reinforce all of the central elements of our political system”.

“The lessons of the crisis will not have been learned if the basic structures of the political system remain unreformed.” the document notes.

Owning up

All of the criticism is not reserved for outside of party ranks, however, as the paper adds: “We fully accept that we failed to propose and implement systemic reforms during our time in government and as the largest party in the Oireachtas.”

BERTIE AHERN FIANNA FAIL ABORTION REFERENDUM BILL Micheál Martin with former party leader and Taosieach Bertie Ahern (2001) Source: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

So, what is the party suggesting now?

We believe that freeing the Oireachtas from the absolute control of government is the single most important reform which is required.

Fianna Fáil lists a number of signs the Government has excessive power, when compared to “all other parliamentary democracies”.

It references the fact that there is a constitutional ban “preventing any non-member of Government even getting a vote on a proposal which involves spending money”, and that the “Dáil’s order of business can only be set or altered on the proposal of Government”.

Micheál Martin’s party wants an independent ‘Oireachtas Office of Policy and Economic Oversight’ group established to, well, oversee policies and review economic projections.

Fianna Fáil is also calling for any 20 members of the Dáil to be entitled to propose an amendment to the order of business, and for two hours’ notice to be given to all groups if the order is to be changed.

Ceann Comhairle and Seanad

The opposition’s feud with Seán Barrett has been resolved, but Fianna Fáil believes his role needs to be revamped.

File Photo D Day for the Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

In its report, the party says the fact that the Ceann Comhairle doesn’t need to seek re-election “brings with it a number of serious problems”.

Unlike the Westminster precedent, where the Speaker is a powerful and independent office holder, there is no expectation that the Ceann Comhairle will remain independent of party connections after stepping down.

The party thinks a secret ballot should be held to elect the Ceann Comhairle, but if the current system remains in place the automatic re-election for the role must be done without reducing the number of TDs elected in the successful person’s constituency.

File photo: voting in island communities gets underway Seanad Referendums Campaigns A referendum on abolishing the Seanad was defeated in October 2013. Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Fianna Fáil wants the Seanad to be reduced from 60 to 51 members, 40 of whom would be chosen in direct national elections. The party wants a 50:50 gender split in terms of potential candidates.

Pre-Budget 2015 Submission

Here’s what the party proposes:

Health

An extra €94.1 million, including:

  • €22.6 million for a minimum of 20,000 additional discretionary medical cards;
  • €20 million to tackle waiting lists;
  • €24 million to reduce the cost of medication by expanding the Drug Payment Scheme;  
  • €10 million to establish a National Mental Health Authority

Education

An additional commitment of €123 million, including:

  • €35 million to reduce the the pupil-teacher ratio in primary schools from 28:1 to 27:1, and reverse cuts in staffing at smaller schools;
  • €30 million to provide guidance counselling in schools;
  • €28 million for the maintenance and upgrading of school buildings

Housing

An extra €154 million, including:

  • €100 million on increasing social housing allocation through local authorities;
  • €23 million on housing grants for people with disabilities

Taxes

Fianna Fáil proposes increasing tax credits and reworking the Universal Social Charge (USC) bands. It wants the lower rates of USC to be expanded “as resources allow” to increase the number of people paying less than 7%.

The party thinks it can make an additional €361 million in taxes, including:

  • €60 million on a 20% tax equivalent on sugar-sweetened drinks: 
  • €61 million by increasing the cost of a packet of cigarettes by €0.50
  • €40 million by extending betting duty to include online bets.

Employment

Fianna Fáil says it will create jobs and boost the economy by encouraging entrepreneurship from an early age, providing a system of advice for SMEs in distress, and introducing a voluntary PRSI scheme for the self-employed.

A full breakdown of the party’s budgetary suggestions is available here.

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This TD wants to tax lotto winnings to pay for more teachers

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About the author:

Órla Ryan

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