General Election 2020

General Election 2020 Update – 29th – 30th January

30 January 2020

Penultimate TV Debate Tonight 

Virgin Media One will tonight host the penultimate debate of the campaign with another seven-party debate scheduled. Leo Varadkar (FG), Micheál Martin (FF), Mary Lou McDonald (SF), Brendan Howlin (Lab), Eamon Ryan (GRN), Mick Barry (Solidarity) and Catherine Murphy (SD) will take to the stage at 9.30pm. With the final debate next week scheduled as a head-to-head between Varadkar and Martin, tonight’s contest will be the last major media platform for SF and the smaller parties to make a lasting impression on voters. 

An estimated 1.1 million people watched the two preceding televised debates. 

On the Campaign Trail 

Fine Gael is struggling to shake off the controversy brought about by comments made earlier in the week from Senator Noone regarding autism. During an appearance on The Tonight Show Noone’s running mate, Minister Richard Bruton, described an Irish Times report which had suggested their local electoral pact had been paused as being “fabricated.” The report, also confirmed by the Times Ireland, claimed that Noone had sought permission to explain her case in a broadcast interview but this was vetoed by senior Fine Gael officials after Noone’s performance in an apparent mock interview. Tánaiste Simon Coveney appeared to contradict Bruton in a radio debate late last night. 

The party has announced it will increase the weekly disability payment by €25 over the next five years if elected to government. On childcare, which has remained a major issue of concern to voters, it has also pledged to increase the overall budget to over €1 billion in 2025. Its proposals include: 

– Further free pre-school with an increase of 4 weeks for children between 3 and 5 years of age with up to 8 additional weeks extra per child 

– For under 3s an increase in the payment to €100 per week by 2025 

Fine Gael is setting out its ‘fair tax plan’ today in Dublin and will also be seeking to focus on Brexit over the coming days as the UK formally leaves the EU tomorrow. 

Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin is speaking in Dublin this morning where he is continuing to launch political attacks on Sinn Féin’s suitability for government. We can expect the main opposition leader to hammer home this message in tonight’s debate with the party hopeful it can pull support from Sinn Féin.  Martin has also outlined his party’s pledge to create a full Ministry of Higher Education.

Not for the first time the party has sought to move itself away from comments made by its MEP, Billy Kelleher. The Ireland South MEP last night tweeted comments in which he criticized RTÉ for being “pitiful” on its reporting of EU matters while also referring to the broadcaster’s Europe Editor, Tony Connolly. The party’s incoming MEP Barry Andrews – who now takes up his seat with the UK’s departure – described the comments as “rather clumsy.” Connolly has been to the fore of Brexit developments and was often the first reporter to break major developments since the 2016 referendum. Martin is expected to shortly announce his party’s approach to the next phase of the Brexit negotiations. 

The Green Party launched its transport policy yesterday. The party says Ireland suffers from “chronic underinvestment” in public transport and decades of “car-centric urban sprawl”. Dublin is ranked as one of the most congested cities in the world. The party’s manifesto on transport calls for a reform of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to ensure an Assistant Secretary General is in charge of implementing green transport options. It also plans to reform the National Transport Authority. The party wants to fast-track a series of cycle routes regularly used by commuters in Dublin, Cork and Galway. The Greens will allocate 10% of the capital budget in transport to cycling infrastructure. Eamon Ryan called the current Transport Minister Shane Ross “possibly the worst Minister for Transport that I’ve ever seen”. 

Key pledges 

− Ensure Local Authorities encourage low-carbon vehicles and sharing schemes similar to Dublin Bikes. 

− Increase the €1,000 spend limit on the Bike to Work Scheme to provide adequate support for the purchase of e-bikes 

− Continue support of the BusConnects project 

− Increase government subvention to public rail operators 

− Promote new e-mobility solutions including car-sharing, e-bike and e-scooter schemes 

Sinn Féin party leader Mary Lou McDonald has responded to the many critics of its manifesto, saying she “won’t take lectures from those who wrecked the economy”. The party’s Northern Irish MEP Martina Anderson left the European Parliament for the last time as the parliament voted to ratify the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. Her colleague Matt Carthy, who is a general election candidate in Cavan/Monaghan, gave his last speech in the European Parliament, saying, “this Friday, part of my country will be taken out of the European Union against the wishes of the vast majority of those who live there.”

The Labour Party will publish its health manifesto today near the University Hospital in Limerick, with its Health Spokesperson Alan Kelly, Housing Spokesperson Jan O’Sullivan, and Galway East candidate Marian Spelman. 

Quotes of the Day 

– “We won’t take lectures from the party that wrecked the economy or the one that made ordinary people pay” 

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald responds to criticism that her spending plans are reckless 

– “Possibly the worst Minister for Transport that I’ve ever seen and that’s saying something” 

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan on Transport Minister Shane Ross 

– “I think that this is necessary to say because there have been unfortunate attempts in recent weeks to politicise Brexit – to say that Ireland can’t have a new government because only current office holders have the skills and knowledge to handle Brexit.” 

Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin criticizes FG’s electoral strategy of focusing on Brexit