Televised Leaders Debate
Last night’s televised debate featured the leaders of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, the Greens, Labour, Sinn Féin, the Social Democrats and People Before Profit.
Despite the crowded platform, Sinn Féin, People Before Profit and Fine Gael were particularly successful in getting their key messages across during the two-hour debate in front of a live studio audience. Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald got off to a strong start by heavily criticising both Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin for ruling out entering coalition talks with her party. However, Martin launched a stinging attack on SF accusing the party of opposing the Special Criminal Court because of its role in sentencing members of the provisional IRA.
A significant portion of the debate was focused on solutions to the housing crisis. All parties are committing to a significant increase in the number of new social housing builds with parties of the left promising to build tens of thousands of houses on public land. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are also emphasising the role of the private sector in helping to expand new housing units. McDonald sought to position Sinn Féin as the only alternative government to FF and FG and criticised the amount of tax paid by banks and multinationals.
The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar continuously hammered home the message that in order to pay for the multitude of promises being made relating to increased expenditure in housing and health, voters needed to ensure there was a strong economy and pointed to his party’s record in government. In response to a question from an audience member Varadkar also sought to differentiate himself by pressing the party’s pledge to reduce income tax.
Labour’s Brendan Howlin and Róisín Shorthall of the Social Democrats struggled to make an impact in the debate while Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin was subjected to criticism from his opponents regarding his party’s role in the ‘Confidence and Supply’ agreement. Eamon Ryan of the Greens sought to appeal to rural voters by promising that his party in government would sit down with the main farming organisations to discuss how best to address climate change concerns.
A number of other televised debates are scheduled between now and polling day with parties fighting to win over undecided voters.
On the Campaign Trail
Fine Gael is attempting to deal with mounting criticism of its election candidate Senator Catherine Noone, who, on the campaign trail, called Leo Varadkar ‘autistic.’ The Senator was canvassing in the presence of a journalist when she made the remark while talking about the Taoiseach’s perceived lack of empathy.
Varadkar is canvassing in Galway today where is hoping to retain the party’s two seats in Galway West.
Fianna Fáil this morning launched its policy on Agriculture with Deputy Charlie McConalogue, spokesperson on Agriculture Food and the Marine, and Deputy Jackie Cahill, spokesperson on Food Horticulture and Forestry. The main points for its policy include;
– Maintenance of current CAP funding following Brexit
– Establishment of a National Food Ombudsman to protect primary prices that farmers receive
– Ensuring a suckler cow payment of €200 per head
– Sustainable forestry and increasing the area of national constraint
– A focus on biodiversity within farm planning schemes
Sinn Féin has come under attack from its former TD Peadar Tóibín who said SF TDs have “zero” influence over policy decisions. Tóibín left the party over its support for abortion and is now the founder and leader of Aontú. His comments will put further pressure on the party’s leadership who are already seeking to dismiss concerns raised by FF and FG over its internal structures. Such allegations have long been made against Sinn Féin but have come to light again recently with revelations about its role in the ‘cash for ash’ scandal in the North.
The party is launching its manifesto today, which will include a new 5 percent tax on people earning over €140,000, and tax rises for those earning above €100,000. Insurance costs are also set to feature prominently in the manifesto. The party says it will put €230 million “back in the pockets of policyholders by abolishing levies paid on non-life insurance policies”. The party is also targeting private equity funds and pledges to “end the sell-off of Irish wealth and property to vulture funds and international investors.”
The Green Party launched its water quality and conservation policy yesterday, pointing to recent incidents such as overflows from water plants. It also launched a 10-year plan for rural Ireland, including developing innovation hubs in rural towns to allow for remote working, expanding rural transport bus links, and reforming CAP funding to reward farmers for sequestering carbon, restoring biodiversity, and producing clean energy.
The Labour Party launch their manifesto this afternoon. Their policies will focus on ending long term homelessness, building 80,000 social and affordable homes and to recruiting staff for the healthcare system.
Quotes of the Day
– “Farmers will be heroes in the change we need to make”
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan on the link between agriculture and climate action
– “He’s autistic like, he’s on the spectrum, there’s no doubt about it. He’s uncomfortable socially and he doesn’t always get the in-between bits.”
The comments made by Senator Catherine Noone in relation to her own party leader, Leo Varadkar. The Senator has this morning apologised for the comments.
– “The reason Sinn Féin opposed the Offences Against the State Act and Special Criminal Court since they came into Dáil Éireann is because the Provisionals within their movement don’t allow them vote for it…The old provos hate the Special Criminal Court. Why? Because the Special Criminal Court defeated the Provisional IRA in the Republic.”
Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin launches a stinging attack on Sinn Féin during last night’s televised debate.