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Q+A: As the leaders of the 'big three' clash, here's what SF, FG and FF are promising in their manifestos

Examine some of the key general election promises ahead of tonight’s debate.

general election

THE PRIME TIME debate between the leaders of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin is set to begin shortly – so what do each of their manifestos promise?

Based on the latest opinion polls, these three parties will be (by far) the biggest blocks in the Dáil when it comes to government formation talks in the coming few weeks.

We’ve been covering each of the manifesto launches as they happen throughout the campaign – and you can find our pieces on the policies of the Greens, Labour, the SocDems, Solidarity-People Before Profit and Aontú here.

Additionally, we’ve been putting together Q&A pieces on all parties’ policies on issues like housing, insurance, agriculture and cycling (look out for more of them in the coming few days).

As the focus tonight is on the parties led by Leo Varadkar, Micheál Martin and Mary Lou McDonald, we’ve focused here on the main promises of the ‘big three’ in areas that have dominated the campaign so far – including housing, health and pensions.

The information comes from the SF, FG and FF manifestos and from replies sent by the parties to reporters working on our ongoing Q&A series.

SINN FÉIN 

9799 SF Manifesto Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald with the party's general election manifesto. Source: Leah Farrell

Housing and homelessness

The party has said over a five year period in government it would deliver: 

  • 100,000 public homes on public land, including 60,000 social homes, 30,000 affordable purchase homes (costing at or below €250,000) and 10,000 affordable rental homes (costing at or below €900 per month).
  • Set the eligibility for affordable housing at €50,000 for a single person and €75,000 for a couple.
  • An increase in the stock of affordable rentals and reduce the State’s reliance on subsidised private rental accommodation. 
  • Implement a three-year nationwide rent freeze. 
  • Double the provision of Housing First housing allocations, phase out dormitory-style emergency accommodation and place a legal obligation on local authorities to put in place homeless prevention plans for those at risk of homelessness. 

Childcare

  • Reduce the cost of childcare by €500 per child per month, at a cost of €500 million per year. 
  • Establish a task force to carry out a study of childminder-based care to identify supports needed by the sector.
  • Offer an extra 26 weeks of maternity or paternity leave, additional to the current 26 weeks of maternity and two weeks of paternity leave available.  
  • Implement a baby box scheme (a box containing essential products such as clothes and nappies given to new parents) at a cost of €50 million. 

Insurance

  • Introduce legislation to ban unfair pricing in the insurance market.
  • Abolish levies paid on non-life insurance policies. 
  • Ensure companies show how they set their prices to the Central Bank.

Agriculture 

  • Tackle the lack of transparency in sheep and beef sector pricing with “regulation and legislation”.
  • Bring in legislative protections for farmers to reduce the imbalance in bargaining power across the food chain.
  • Establish a national Just Transition task force “based on dialogue with trade unions and other stakeholders”. The Just Transition plan aims to help workers in the midlands, especially those currently employed by Bord na Mona. 
  • Provide an additional €4 million to the Just Transition annual budget. 

Health

  • Create an Irish version of the National Health Service (NHS) to guarantee the right to health care for every citizen based on need.
  • Implement Sláintecare. 
  • Lift the recruitment freeze and hire 2,500 more nurses and midwives at a cost of €134 million. 
  • Open 1,500 more hospital beds during the term of government. 
  • Roll out free GP care for everyone, at a cost of over €455 million. 
  • Get rid of prescription charges and provide medical cards to cancer patients. 
  • Ensure a state-sponsored contraception scheme for women. 

Pensions

  • Return the pension age to 65, costing €368 million per year. 
  • Prohibit mandatory retirement. 

Climate and transport 

  • No carbon tax increases without viable alternatives.
  • Stop giving new licences for offshore fossil fuel drilling and for any new fossil fuel infrastructure. 
  • Ban fracking across the island of Ireland. 
  • Set out legislative targets to meet commitments to reducing carbon emissions. 
  • Develop fully integrated public transport systems and transition to electric vehicles. 
  • Increase investment in public transport.

Tax 

  • Increase self-employed tax credits to €1,650.
  • Retain the 12.5% corporation tax rate. 
  • Bring in a stronger vacant sites tax. 
  • Abolish the Local Property Tax. 
  • Make all incomes below €30,000 exempt from the Universal Social Charge (USC).  

FINE GAEL

FG MANIFESTO 487 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the launch of the Fine Gael general election manifesto. Source: Sam Boal

Housing and homelessness: 

  • Increase new home builds to 35,000-40,000 over the lifetime of the next government.
  • Add more than 60,000 homes to the stock of social housing.
  • Expand the Help to Buy scheme to allow first-time buyers to claim a tax rebate of up to €30,000, or 10% of a deposit needed to buy or build a new home. 
  • Create 400 Housing First tenancies by the end of 2021. 
  • The party says it would not implement a rent freeze across Ireland. 
  • Continue the Rebuilding Ireland programme and update it to reflect actions needed to address the housing crisis. 

Childcare 

  • Invest an extra €400 million in childcare over the next five years, bringing the total annual investment to more than €1 billion by 2025.  
  • Support the establishment of a Joint Labour Committee in the childcare sector to help determine minimum rates of pay for childcare workers, along with terms and conditions of employment. 
  • Introduce baby boxes for new parents. 

Insurance 

  • Create a government office that would encourage international insurers entering the Irish market. 
  • Make perjury a statutory offence that is easier to prosecute to discourage false and misleading evidence. 
  • Prevent people with a history of fraudulent claims from bringing forward new claims. 
  • Legislate to increase protections for consumers, business, sporting clubs and community groups. 
  • Ensure every garda division has expertise in economic crime, including insurance fraud. 

Agriculture 

  • Deliver a strong Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget and safeguard the interests of beef farmers after Brexit. 
  • Implement the commitments of the Beef Marker Taskforce relating to beef prices and other issues. 
  • Develop a beef price index. 
  • Reduce carbon emissions by approximately 10% without reducing the national herd. 
  • Continue the Just Transition plan for Bord na Mona workers in the midlands.

Healthcare 

  • Implement Sláintecare and invest an extra €5 billion per year to the health service by 2025. 
  • Provide 2,600 extra hospital beds and 4,500 community beds.
  • Develop three elective hospitals in Dublin, Cork and Galway. 
  • Recruit over 3,800 primary care workers. 
  • Extend free GP care to under 18s. 
  • Reduce prescription charges. 
  • Give medical cards to those with a terminal illness. 
  • Extend free dental care to children under 16. 
  • Deliver free contraception, firstly to women aged 17-25. 
  • Introduce Minimum Unit Pricing in alcohol at the same time as Northern Ireland.  

Pensions

  • The party said that in keeping with current legislation, it would increase the pension age from 66 to 67 in 2021, then to 68 in 2028. 
  • Increase the state pension by at least €25 a week by 2025.  

Climate and transport

  • Continue with the Climate Action Plan outlined previously by the government.
  • Increase by ten times the current level of retrofitting.
  • Increase by fifty times the level of electric vehicles uptake.
  • Plant an extra 440 million trees by 2040. 
  • Ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.
  • Ring-fence €6 billion in revenue from the carbon tax specifically for climate action. 
  • Complete the BusConnects programme in the Greater Dublin Area, expand the Dart and improve rail lines between Dublin, Cork and Belfast. 

Tax

  • Increase the Universal Social Charge exemption threshold from €13,000 to €20,500. 
  • Maintain the 12.5% corporation tax rate. 
  • Continue to raise the Earned Income Tax for the self-employed to match the PAYE tax credit. 
  • Allow more discretion for councillors to change the Local Property Tax rate for their area. 

FIANNA FÁIL

6698  FF manifesto Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin with other party members at the launch of the Fianna Fáil general election manifesto. Source: Leah Farrell

Housing and homelessness 

  • Build 50,000 new social housing units by 2025, made available as part of a Home First strategy. 
  • Increase the Rent Supplement and Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) supports. 
  • Establish a “preventing homelessness” fighting fund which would be used to buy repossessed units and keep those tenants in place.
  • Give Hiqa mandate to inspect standards in emergency accommodation facilities, increase funding to drug-free hostels, and work on measures to encourage rough sleepers off the streets. 
  • The party says it would not implement a rent freeze.
  • Introduce a €600 rent tax credit. 
  • Expand the Help-to-Buy scheme. 
  • Discontinue the Rebuilding Ireland programme and launch a new housing plan. 

Childcare 

  • Increase childcare subsidies for middle-income families from the current entitlement of €20 a week, depending on income levels.
  • Offer financial support for families who use registered childminders through a €2,000 per year tax credit. 
  • Increase childcare subsidies for parents using creches, from €20 to €80 a week. 
  • Extend the ECCE scheme to 40 weeks of free pre-school care, instead of 38 weeks per year. 
  • Provide a commercial rates relief fund to creches and reduce the cost of business insurance. 
  • Develop 1,000 apprenticeships for childcare workers. 

Insurance

  • Fully establish the Judicial Council to provide guidance on personal injury claims.
  • Make it an offence to not fully co-operate with the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB). 
  • Establish a publicly-funded garda fraud unit. 
  • Increase the penalties for fraudulent claims.
  • Give the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission powers to “punish and deter” anti-competitive conduct. 
  • Set up a public liability and employer liability price index, as well as a national claims information database to track the level of claims. 
  • Work to remove dual pricing from the market. 

Agriculture 

  • Work towards introducing a €200 suckler cow payment in the next CAP on the first 20 cows. 
  • Improve the price reporting and price transparency in the food supply chain.
  • Act on Teagasc’s plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland over the next decade.
  • Ensure the Climate Action Fund is targeted to prepare for a low-carbon economy. 
  • Spend carbon tax proceeds on the Just Transition pathway to protect those on low incomes and focus on peatland restoration, among other issues.

Health

  • Increase hospital bed capacity and aim for a four-hour wait in A&E. 
  • Increase hospital beds by 2,600. 
  • Implement new regional structures proposed under Sláintecare. 
  • Recruit 1,000 extra consultants at a cost of €223 million along with 4,000 extra nursing staff. 
  • Expand free GP care in line with Sláintecare. 
  • Provide an additional five million hours of home care support. 
  • Give a discretionary medical card to those with serious illnesses. 
  • Abolish prescription charges. 
  • Introduce Minimum Unit Pricing at the same time as Northern Ireland.  

Pensions

  • Increase the state pension by €5 a week each year. 
  • Set up a commission to examine the state pension age and defer any further age increase before its completion.  

Climate and transport  

  • Increase the carbon tax in the coming years, up to €80 per tonne of CO2 by 2030.
  • Ban the installation of new fossil-fuel based heating systems in public buildings “unless necessary”.
  • Initiate a new €10 million biodiversity fund. 
  • Introduce a nationwide ban on the burning of smoky coal.
  • Ensure one quarter of the cars purchased by the State are electric vehicles. 
  • Ban diesel cars from Irish cities by 2030 and aim for the complete removal of fossil fuel cars by 2035. 
  • Build the M20 road from Cork to Limerick and implement a “next-generation” public transport network.  

Tax

  • Reduce the Capital Gains Tax to 25%.
  • Introduce a €600 rent tax credit. 
  • Reduce the Universal Social Charge rate from 4.5% to 3.5%. 
  • Increase the Standard Rate Income Tax band by €3,000 for a single person and €6,000 for a couple.
  • Increase the Earned Income Tax Credit to €1,650 to level it with the PAYE tax credit. 
  • Maintain the 12.5% corporation tax rate.
  • Prevent a significant increase in the Local Property Tax. 

The Prime Time Leaders Debate will be broadcast on RTÉ One at 9.35pm tonight, hosted by Miriam O’Callaghan and David McCullagh. 

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