General Election 2020

General Election 2020 Update – 28th – 29th January

29 January 2020

Galway West Opinion Poll 

The results of a TG4/Ipsos MRBI constituency poll in Galway West suggests a surge in support for the Social Democrats and the Greens. The poll puts support for Fianna Fáil at 20% (down 4 on its 2016 result), Fine Gael 23% (-1), Social Democrats 12% (+7), Green Party 10% (+8) and Sinn Féin 7% (-2). 

If the poll was to be reflected on election day it is likely that outgoing Independent TDs Noel Grealish and Catherine Connolly could lose their seats. Fine Gael would also be in a battle to retain its second seat with the poll showing the Government Chief Whip, Sean Kyne, polling 3 points behind his colleague Hildegarde Naughton. Fianna Fáil’s Éamon Ó’Cuív looks likely to hold his seat but the party will struggle on these numbers to bring in its Galway City Councillor Ollie Crowe. The biggest benefactors are the Social Democrats whose support has more than doubled since 2016 while Green Party Cllr. Pauline O’Reilly received an impressive 10% support in the poll. 

However, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4%, the poll puts 10 candidates in contention for the five seats. 

On the Campaign Trail 

Fine Gael sought to move away from the controversy over comments made by the party’s candidate for Dublin Bay North, Senator Catherine Noone, with the Taoiseach accepting her apology. 

Today the Tánaiste Simon Coveney will lead the party’s daily news conference by focusing on childcare, supporting families and the wider economy. He will be joined by fellow Ministers Paschal Donohoe and Heather Humphreys. Fine Gael has sought to emphasise its team throughout this campaign with other parties, such as Fianna Fáil, allowing their leaders dominate policy announcements. 

The Taoiseach is in the South-East today where he is due to officially open the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Bridge, the longest bridge which crosses the river Barrow between Wexford and Kilkenny. The cabinet will also meet this morning about Brexit ahead of the UK’s formal departure from the EU this weekend. The party will hope that the significant news coverage later this week of the UK’s formal departure will concentrate the minds of voters on the phase II negotiations. 

Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin spoke at an event hosted by the Irish Farmers’ Association yesterday evening. Deputy Martin outlined that the party will not support any attempt to reduce the national herd size with the view of cutting agricultural carbon emissions. When questioned by Mr Tom Cullinan, President of the IFA, about the retention of live exports, Martin conceded he is in favour of exports continuing. The Green Party has promised to ban exports of live animals. 

The party will present new proposals on gambling today with Deputy Lisa Chambers, party spokesperson on Brexit and Deputy Jim O’Callaghan, spokesperson for Justice and Equality, leading a press conference on the issue. These proposals include the establishment of a new Gambling regulator and banning credit card gambling. Party leader, Deputy Micheál Martin will be campaigning in Kildare North this afternoon where the party is hoeing to retain its two seats. 

Sinn Féin launched its general election manifesto yesterday. The party’s spending pledges have been described as ‘dramatic’, ‘radical’, ‘reckless’, and ‘dangerous’ by some analysts. The party’s high-cost promises on welfare and workers would be funded by tax increases on businesses and higher earners. Party leader Mary Lou McDonald says her plans are “uplifting and fair”. The party is pledging to spend €22 billion over the next five years, which amounts to twice the amount of unallocated resources the Department of Finance has earmarked for prudent spending. 

Taxation 

On taxation, the party is not advocating for a higher baseline tax rate for corporations, but will seek to penalise large companies and the wealthy with other tax measures. Priorities include: 

− Maintaining a corporation tax rate of 12.5% 

− Cooperating with the OECD’s Base Erosion Profit Shifting (BEPS) initiative and supporting greater transparency regarding on where multinationals make their profits and pay their taxes 

− Introducing an 80% cap on profits offset by capital allowances for intangible assets that were on shored between 2015 and 2018 by multinationals 

− Ending the Government appeal against the EU Commission finding that Apple owes the Irish people €14.3 billion. The party states that Fine Gael has cost the Irish taxpayer more than €7 million in legal fees. 

− Making all income below €30,000 exempt from USC 

− 5% levy on individual incomes above €140,000 

− Giving the Central Bank power to cap mortgage interest rates 

− Keeping the salary cap and ban on bankers’ bonuses in place 

Climate Action 

− Establish a Just Transition Task Force and provide an additional €4 million to the Just Transition Fund annual budget 

− No carbon tax increases in the absence of viable alternatives 

− Diversify renewable energy sources 

− All data centres to be powered through self-generated 100% renewable energy 

Brexit 

On Brexit, Sinn Féin is seeking continued access for citizens in the North to the European Health Insurance Scheme. The government has made commitments regarding access to the benefits of the European Health Insurance Card for citizens in the North, with cabinet approving draft legislation last year. 

At the National Council of the Irish Farmers’ Association, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said it would be necessary to cut the national herd to address the climate challenge; his party also wants to end live exports. Ryan pointed out that methane, a greenhouse gas, can be used to generate renewable energy. Here we see the potential for convergence of Green Party and FF/FG views on harnessing technology and innovation for climate action. 

Labour launched its manifesto “Building an Equal Society” yesterday in the Iveagh Gardens Hotel. The party’s policies mainly focused on: 

Building Homes 

− Investing €16bn over the next 5 years to build 80,000 homes 

− The introduction of limited rent caps 

− Allowing public bodies to compulsory purchase land at current use value 

Equality in Healthcare 

− Investment €1bn to provide free GP care to under 18s 

− Ending the de-facto recruitment embargo in the HSE 

Job security 

− Implementation of the living wage 

− Tackling the gig economy 

− Maintenance of the State Pension to 66 years of age 

A fair start for every child 

− Ensuring primary education is free for all 

− Development of a high quality public child care system 

− Introduction of safeguards to protect young people from abuse and discrimination, including online platforms 

Climate Justice 

− Provision of funding for Local Authorities to deliver on a home insulation scheme 

− Investment in Public transport and cycling infrastructure 

− Making the target of halving carbon emissions by 2030 a legally binding requirement 

It is also proposing the establishment of a new citizens assembly to modernise and reform the constitution in areas such as gender equality, diversity and the public ownership of utilities including Irish Water. The party’s red lines include policies on building homes and the establishment of the living wage. Party Leader, Brendan Howlin stated at the launch on the question of a coalition that while “there was nobody I wouldn’t talk to” there were still “serious barriers to working with Sinn Féin”. 

People Before Profit announced its environmental policy and ‘eco-socialist’ manifesto today. Its policies focus on making housing a human right, ending the two-tier health system, taking radical action for the climate, establishing a guarantee of 33 hours of free childcare per week, and the maintenance of job security through the implementation of the living wage. 

Quotes of the Day

“With a four-page table of contents directing the way to 108 pages of great things to do, there was a certain “never mind the quality, feel the width” appeal to it.” 

 Irish Times journalist Miriam Lord on Sinn Féin’s manifesto