General Election 2020

General Election 2020 Update – January 23rd – 24th

24 January 2020

 Fine Gael will use day 10 of the election campaign to launch its election manifesto. It is anticipated the outgoing governing party will commit to a further €5 billion in health spending which will include policies to hire a further 5,000 nurses and almost 4,000 additional health workers in primary care. On housing the party’s promise to increase the relief available under its Help-to-Buy scheme by a further €10,000 will help those primarily in urban areas but further announcements are expected today for those living in rural areas. One such proposal is to allow families purchase state-owned sites at cost price in a bid to encourage more people to move to rural towns and villages. 

However, the party is expected to come under pressure with fresh revelations this morning that the planned National Children’s Hospital, already significantly over budget, will require a further €15 million to deal with legal costs. It is reported further delays are also possible. The large-scale infrastructure project has increased in cost from €800 million in 2014, to just under €1 billion in 2017 and to €1.7 billion now. 

The Taoiseach returns to the campaign trail after cancelling a planned constituency tour yesterday with Noel Rock TD due to an illness. 

Fianna Fáil will also launch its election manifesto today, two hours before Fine Gael takes to the podium. Measures which are expected to be included in its plans for the next 5 years are a reduction in capital gains tax from 33% to 25%, a commitment to hire 1,000 consultants (the party previously had said 800-1,000) and the establishment of a Commission on Taxation. 

An opinion poll carried out by TG4 and Ipsos MRBI for the Donegal constituency has shown Fianna Fáil may come under pressure to hold its second seat in this five seater. The party’s two candidates, outgoing TDs Charlie McConalogue and Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher received 22% support in the poll, down 9 points from its 2016 performance. Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty is likely to top the poll and bring in his running mate Pádraig Mac Lochlainn if the data is reflected on election day. Fine Gael TD and Minister for Education Joe McHugh secured 17% support, the second highest in the poll. Outgoing Independent TD Thomas Pringle looks set to fight it out with FF’s Gallagher for the final seat. The poll involved a sample from 550 voters with a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points. 

Later today Micheál Martin will visit Wicklow where he is expected to canvass with the party’s spokesperson on health, Stephen Donnelly TD. 

Labour’s focus yesterday afternoon was on climate action and the party is pledging a ‘whole of government’ approach with every policy contributing to climate targets. Labour is banking on its previous action in this area – the party brought in Ireland’s first climate change laws, and the city bike schemes. Pledges include: 

− Halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 

− Ringfence money from the carbon tax for sustainability and Just Transition 

− Retrofit 100,000 homes each year 

− Close down all coal, peat, and oil power stations 

− Offshore wind generation 

Labour’s slogan on climate is stark: “time is running out for our planet”, but it is unlikely that the party will gain many voters on this single issue. It looks like the Green Party has more credibility in this regard, and polls show they have a greater chance of being the fourth biggest party. 

Labour is supporting the SIPTU (Ireland’s largest trade union) campaign to stop the pension age increase to 67. 

Sinn Féin focused on mental health yesterday afternoon, outlining its plans for greater healthcare and public support in this area. SF proposals include: 

− Implementing ‘A Vision for Change’ 

− Fully staffed CAMHS teams 

− Investment in mental health primary care 

− Recruiting a minimum 2000 additional full-time mental health staff 

− Free universal counselling services with a GP referral 

− Cabinet Minister who has responsibility for tackling the drug and addiction crisis as part of their portfolio 

The party has attacked Fianna Fáil which called a rent freeze “unconstitutional.” SF is also supporting the SIPTU campaign to bring the pension age back to 65 and say the party has legislation “ready to go” to give older citizens a break. 

The Green Party also attended the launch of SIPTU’s “Stop 67” campaign and has called for a stakeholder forum to discuss the issue to move towards an evidence-based policy. The Greens state that views on retirement need to evolve and move away from “discriminatory mandatory retirement ages”. On public transport, the party wants to secure 10% of the capital transport budget for walking, 10% for cycling and allocate the remainder 2:1 in favour of public transport over road building. 

As polls have shown, concern about the environment is the most influential issue for only 7% of voters; this figure rises to 12% in Dublin. Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has said he believes his party can take up to twelve seats, considerably more than its current three seats. He says he has been buoyed by reactions on the doorstep, international recognition of the climate crisis, and polling data. He pointed out that Ireland will be fined by the EU if the country fails to reach its climate targets. 

The most influential issue for voters: 

Social Democrats: the party pledges to eliminate child poverty in the course of the next government, launching policies on children, families and work/life balance. The party introduced legislation in the Dáil to extend unpaid parental leave to 6 months, which was backed by the government. The party is also seeking to establish a commission to research and trial a four-day week. Today the party will focus on anti-corruption measures and ideas for political reform and accountability. 

Quotes of the Day 

The government have been hiding this from the public. I remember Leo Varadkar saying short of an asteroid hitting the planet this project would be finished this year.” 

Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin criticises the government this morning over revelations that there may be further delays and increased costs to the National Children’s Hospital. 

And our job is to find practical solutions to help make it happen, it’s not to be wagging our fingers at people.” 

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan on caring for the environment