Martin and Gilmore debate on TV3

Wednesday 09 February 2011 11.29
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Debate - Eamon Gilmore and Micheál Martin go head-to-head
Debate - Eamon Gilmore and Micheál Martin go head-to-head
Enda Kenny - Did not attend TV3 leaders' debate (Pic: Liam Sweeney)
Enda Kenny - Did not attend TV3 leaders' debate (Pic: Liam Sweeney)

In tonight's leaders’ debate, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin accused the Labour Party of chopping and changing its position in a number of issues.

Election 2011: Live blog

Labour leader Eamonn Gilmore accused Fianna Fáil of being the party that 'moved the goalposts more than most'.

Mr Martin said Labour has chopped and changed its position on property tax, a 48% tax rate and on the deadline for reducing the deficit, which he said was undermining confidence.

He also accused Labour of playing the popular line.

Mr Gilmore said when it comes to changing no one does it better or worse than Fianna Fáil.

He said the adjustment was originally €7.5bn last year, but then was changed to €15bn because the Govt their numbers wrong.

Mr Martin said Labour was in favour of too much tax and that you cannot tax your way out of a recession.

Mr Gilmore said the Government had taxed more than the Labour party had proposed. He said surgery not butchery was needed.

Mr Martin said Labour believed the IMF-EU deal could be unilaterally renegotiated and he accused Mr Gilmore of backing away from his comments last week that 'its Labour’s way or Frankfurt's way' on the advice of Ruairí Quinn.

Mr Gilmore said he never said the deal could be renegotiated unilaterally, but he said Ireland needed strong leadership just as Angela Merkel will stand up for Germany and President Sarkozy for France.

Mr Martin responded that he did not need lectures from the Mr Gilmore about standing up for one's country.

Enda Kenny attends Leitrim meeting

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has addressed several hundred people at a public meeting in Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim.

The Town Hall styled meeting took place at the same time as tonight’s televised debate between the Fianna Fáil and Labour leaders.

Mr Kenny said he was interested in meeting people face to face and he said the public has very little interest in the televised debate discussion.

During a 40-minute address at the Bush Hotel, Mr Kenny said the understandable anger of thousands of people should be turned into electoral action. He said people should do that by voting in favour of a party addressing and listening to their concerns.

Mr Kenny said entrepreneurs and creative people have not run out of ideas and want to live and work here. He said Fine Gael is in a position to give them that opportunity.

He said comments from Fianna Fáil about how the current health system is serving the people indicate they are far removed from reality.

Enda Kenny said he was not going to make false promises or lead people astray. But he said he was a leader who will change politics in Ireland, for the better.

Mr Kenny returns to Co Mayo and will tomorrow morning submit his nominations papers in Castlebar.

Frontline services and economy

Frontline public services, the health sector and the economy were the subjects of the main parties' news conferences earlier.

The Green Party said it would invest €500m from the National Pension Reserve Fund to insulate homes and other buildings, and create 25,000 new jobs in the process.

Announcing its jobs plan this morning, the party also proposed turning Ireland into an exporter of renewable energy, such as wind power, and the building of an interconnector to link Ireland to the rest of Europe.

The plan also envisages the development and marketing of Ireland as an eco-tourism destination.

Fine Gael said it would increase the number of school teachers by 2,500.

Announcing plans to protect frontline services, the party said it could credibly commit to increasing teacher numbers between now and 2014 to maintain the current teacher pupil ratio.

The party also said it will reduce civil service back office staff by a third, but there will be no compulsory redundancies.

Mr Kenny has said his party's plans to reduce the number of people employed in the public service by 10% could cost as much as €1bn.

Micheál Martin had earlier been fielding questions on the national finances alongside Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan.

The Fianna Fáil leader said investment in research and development must be defended.

He said it would be easy to hit these programmes, but national recovery cannot happen without them.

Asked about Ministerial severance payments, Mr Lenihan said they had been a 'settled feature of pay arrangements for many years'.

He said the payments were introduced in 1992, and had been availed of by former Ministers from Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour.

Mr Lenihan said that the sum of €90,000 was fully subject to income tax and the amount in his case would be about half that.

Healthcare plans

Labour launched its healthcare plans today - it proposed a universal primary care insurance for every citizen.

Funded by 'savings in the health care budget', it would cost €389m and would be phased in over four years.

The party also has plans to introduce a Universal Hospital Care Insurance by 2016, which it plans to fund 'through exchequer funding and an insurance premium'.

Sinn Féin has launched its youth employment plan to try to reduce the number of young people emigrating.