On the Campaign Trail
Fine Gael is focusing much of its attention on Brexit today, coinciding with the UK’s formal departure from the EU at 11pm tonight. Brexit and the future trade talks have largely been in the distant background during election 2020 thus far, much to the disappointment of Fine Gael who poll strongly on the issue. Current EU Commissioner for Trade and former Fine Gael minister, Phil Hogan, this week warned the electorate that a ‘crash-out’ Brexit is still a possibility. This morning Leo Varadkar noted his confidence in reaching a good deal with the UK; “The good news is that I don’t think the two parties – the EU on one side and Britain on the other – are all that far apart. We broadly agree that we want there to be no quotas, no tariffs, no taxes and the minimum amount of bureaucracy and checks as possible.”
Speaking during a televised debate with six fellow party leaders last night, the Taoiseach once again expressed his openness to enter coalition talks with arch-rivals Fianna Fáil rather than face a second election in the event of political deadlock.
Fianna Fáil will be buoyed this morning after its party leader had his best debate of the campaign during last night’s seven-way leaders’ contest. Micheál Martin emerged as one of the strongest performers in a debate which was overshadowed by shouting and interventionist moderators. Martin sought to position his party as the vehicle for change in housing and health policy and continued to direct most of his criticism towards Sinn Féin.
The party has provided further detail of its plans to increase investment in higher education which include:
– An additional €100 million to fund higher education
– A 20% increase in student grants
– Restoring cuts for post graduate students
Labour will be hoping its message that it is fiscally prudent will differentiate itself from the main parties who are promising billions in tax cuts and increased expenditure. The party has focused its expenditure plans on housing and health. The party is continuing to promise a rent freeze, despite concerns that such a measure could be unconstitutional.
Speaking in her home patch of Dublin Central Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald promised to allocate a seat at the cabinet for a minister for drugs and alcohol misuse while also pledging an additional €12 million to both areas. McDonald is in Louth today where she will visit border communities. The party is hoping to retain two seats in this constituency and McDonald will likely again repeat her party’s call for a border poll.
Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan struggled to make an impact in the latest televised leaders’ debate and was often drowned out by his opponents. The party will be hoping to retain its place as the fourth most popular party this weekend with further opinion polls set to be published.
The Social Democrats, who once again struggled to make its voice heard in the multi-party debate will today publish its election manifesto where measures are expected to include:
– Tax breaks for low income artists with funding for the sector to be set at 0.4% of GDP
– Improvements in work-life balance to include paid parental leave for up to 12 months
– Extension of flexible working such as four-day weeks, term time working and reduced working hours
Quotes of the Day
– “Absolutely, nobody is getting a guarantee from me as to who will be in Cabinet.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today.