The replacement of Gerry Adams as Sinn Féin leader would not be enough to secure a future coalition deal with Fianna Fáil, Micheál Martin has insisted.
The Fianna Fáil chief said Sinn Féin would have to make considerable policy shifts before any accommodation could be considered between the two parties.
Mr Martin made the remarks after he used Fianna Fáil’s 75th ard fheis in Killarney to try and position the party as a more left-wing alternative to the Coalition Government.
Mr Martin’s key note address warned Ireland had become a “two tier” republic where the economic recovery was failing to trickle down to many sectors of society.
He pledged to fight what he branded the Government’s plans to “privatise” the health service, and also called for an overhaul of the utility regulatory system to bring down electricity prices for consumers.
But in both areas, Mr Martin did not set out a clear route map to achieving his goals. He argued that the economic recovery was uneven and unfair, and the Government was hoping “a few rising boats would lift everyone”.
“The Irish people know some things are improving but there is a two-tiered recovery under way. Some are moving ahead but many are being left behind,” he told 2,500 delegates
Mr Martin said families were being crushed under a raft of new stealth charges such as the property tax which were hitting people regardless of ability to pay.
“No matter what your income is, what pressures you are dealing with, you get the same bill.
“In seven months’ time water charges will hit. Everyone will pay but exactly how much will be secret until after the local elections — another cynical political ploy,” he said.
One of the few concrete commitments he made in the address was to pledge to set-up a national mental health authority which would co-ordinate suicide prevention measures in the same way as the Road Safety Authority had tackled vehicle crash deaths.
“I believe we can do the same in the field of mental health. That’s why we are proposing the establishment of a national mental health authority to be charged with leading an all-out national programme to promote positive attitudes to mental health and to reduce the incidence of self-harm and suicide,” he said.
Citing reports that nearly 4,000 people were alive today because of the 10-year- old smoking ban he introduced while health minister, Mr Martin insisted a similar drive was needed to deal with mental health issues.
“When we accept there is a national problem and agree to work together we can achieve big things,” he said.
Mr Martin reserved his strongest party political fire for embattled Justice Minister Alan Shatter.
“When a minister for justice can refuse to apologise for falsely attacking members of the gardaí and still keeps his job, there’s something very wrong.
“We don’t just need reform of politics, we need a profound reform of every element of how the State works to legislate and govern,” he said.
He said the Coalition was making people lose faith in the political system. and he accused Fine Gael and Labour of aping Thatcherite policies intended to smash apart civil society.
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