The fifth full day of campaigning in the 2020 General Election is under way, with a number of party leaders making media appearances and crime, once again, a key issue.
Fine Gael's Charlie Flanagan has said he opposes a Fianna Fáil plan that would allow the "belief" of a garda chief superintendent that an individual was involved in gang crime to be used as evidence in criminal trials.
Speaking on RTÉ's The Week in Politics, the Minister for Justice said he was "open to any suggestions", but such proposals had "to make a difference".
He said the Fianna Fáil proposal, raised by its justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan, was opposed by senior officials in his department, by the Attorney General's office and also gardaí.
Minister for Justice @CharlieFlanagan speaking on #rtetwip in relation to #drugs and #crime, says he is open to any suggestions but only those that will make a difference. #GE2020 pic.twitter.com/CTXZdykZsC— The Week in Politics (@rtetwip) January 19, 2020
Fianna Fáil's Marc MacSharry said that when it came to crime "all we have had is rhetoric" from the Fine Gael government.
He said his party would ensure there were 16,000 gardaí by 2021, which is 1,000 more than what has been promised by Fine Gael, a party he claimed was "out of touch".
.@MarcMacsharryTD speaking on #rtetwip says that "the government are unfortunately out of touch when it comes to representing the people and protecting them". #GE2020 #rtetwip #rtepolitics pic.twitter.com/ra0HH4lyKj— The Week in Politics (@rtetwip) January 19, 2020
Sinn Féin's Louise O'Reilly said crime was a big issue in her constituency and people "want to see gardaí on the beat".
She said her party would also ensure there were 16,000 gardaí by 2021.
.@loreillysf TD speaking on #rtetwip highlights the key issues around #drugs and #crime and the changes that need to be made in government in relation to these issues. #GE2020 #rtetwip pic.twitter.com/BmL7jswmav— The Week in Politics (@rtetwip) January 19, 2020
Labour's Alan Kelly said a special commission, which had worked in Limerick in the past, needed to be introduced quickly in Louth to deal with the gangs operating there.
He argued that gardaí were spending too much time tackling "minor [drug] possession issues", which should be dealt with as a health issue.
On #rtetwip @alankellylabour said that before #criminal issues and drugs use can be tackled, better resources need to be put in place. The show will be repeated on @RTENewsNow at 10pm and @RTEOne at 23:35. #GE2020 pic.twitter.com/Gq4bl9Tn4i— The Week in Politics (@rtetwip) January 19, 2020
The Green Party's Joe O'Brien said we cannot police our way out of modern organised crime and increasing resources needed to be a priority.
Mr O'Brien said cocaine was a big part of the problem and was a wider public health issue.
He highlighted that in the past year, Ireland's increase in cocaine use was the biggest of any EU country.
Meanwhile, co-leader of the Social Democrats Catherine Murphy has said the party would not rule out any prospective partners in a coalition, but said they would need to be open to a social democratic approach on issues.
Speaking on RTÉ's This Week programme, she said that meant better public services, such as in Nordic countries, where people there were paying their taxes and getting a great service, but that was not the case in Ireland.
When asked how her party would fully fund the implementation of Sláintecare, the ten-year plan to reform the health system, Ms Murphy said there was a range of different ways to do it.
It was important that taxes were being used wisely, she said, adding that they had been wasted over the past few years.
She said a lot of Ireland's doctors are not staying in the country as their quality of their work life was not as it needed to be, and if that was improved then many would stay.
Ms Murphy said Sláintecare was the only game in town, as all the parties had bought into it. She said a delay to the reform of the health service could not be afforded.
On the campaign trail, senior Fine Gael figures are on the hustings, with Simon Coveney in Limerick city and the party's Director of Elections Paschal Donohoe on the stump in Dublin.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin was the key interviewee on RTÉ's This Week programme. He will travel to Sligo for further canvassing.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald is based in Dublin and spending most of her time in the Dublin South Central constituency with candidate Aengus Ó Snodaigh.
She said her party was taking legal advice about its exclusion from one of the RTÉ election debates.
The @sinnfeinireland leader @MaryLouMcDonald said the party is taking legal advice about its exclusion from one of the RTÉ election debates. She was speaking while canvassing in Dublin South Central @rtenews pic.twitter.com/729J3QqvYj— Samantha Libreri (@SamanthaLibreri) January 19, 2020
Ms McDonald said the party's director of elections Pearse Doherty is to write to the national broadcaster to ask that Sinn Féin is included in the debate due to take place in the final week of the campaign.
She also said you could not have an "authentic" debate between two men who have been in government "together" for the past four years and who share virtually all policy positions in common.
Speaking during a canvass in Dublin South Central this afternoon, Ms McDonald said the election is not a two-horse race.
"This election is about the people, this elections is about choice, this election is about policy, it's about people's future and it's very wrong for any section of the media to try and frame this contest as simply a choice between two parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, who have no real points of difference."
She said it is not the job of the media, and in particular the national broadcaster, to decide what the choice for the people should be.
Labour leader Brendan Howlin joined Mr Kelly and members of Labour Youth in Dublin to urge voters to ensure they are registered to vote and publish proposals for electoral reform.
Mr Howlin said he remains "very confident" of doubling the party's number of TDs despite the findings of a new opinion poll.
Solidarity/People Before Profit/RISE candidates are canvassing in their own constituencies.
Fine Gael denies party involvement in newspaper ad
Fine Gael's Paschal Donohoe has insisted the party was not involved in an ad in a Sunday newspaper highlighting an increase in the national minimum wage.
The Government of Ireland advertisement appeared on the front page of the Business Post today, advising readers that the minimum wage will rise by 30c from 1 Februrary.
The decision to increase the minimum wage to €10.10 was announced in December.
Mr Donohoe today rejected that it amounted to what was described as "a party political broadcast" during a general election campaign.
He said "absolutely not, this is the kind of communication that happens every time there is a change in the minimum wage".
"I think it is appropriate in the context that there was uncertainty in relation to the status of the minimum wage," he added.
The Fianna Fáil deputy leader has accused Fine Gael of "spending taxpayers' money to buy this election".
Dara Calleary said "all such advertising should be suspended until after polling day".
The Labour Party's Ged Nash has described it as "a glorified election ad from Fine Gael, paid for by taxpayers".
He accused the party of "abusing taxpayers money to ingratiate themselves with voters less than three weeks from polling day".
Speaking in Dublin today, Paschal Donohoe said "the Fine Gael party was not involved" in any of the communication.
Candidate's windows smashed
The Fine Gael candidate for Cork North Central, Senator Colm Burke, says the windows of his campaign office have been smashed tonight, and posters taken down in recent days.
In a post on Twitter, he said: "Bricks fired through the window in my office in Blackpool this evening. It has been a difficult few days with over 250 posters taken down and illegally removed."
He added: "No candidate or their staff should have to face this, but my campaign and I won't be intimidated or deterred."
Asked who might be behind the attack, Mr Burke replied: "No idea."
However, the Senator added that he believed politics were at play.