By Daniel McConnell, Political Editor
Fianna Fáil has committed to getting rid of Irish Water and scrapping water charges for five years, in its General Election manifesto which was unveiled today.
At the launch of the manifesto, party leader Micheál Martin was pressed repeatedly about whether he and his party would do some form of a deal with Fine Gael, but he repeatedly refused to be drawn on it or more significantly to definitively rule it out.
He said such speculation “bordered on the ridiculous” and said he was not going to be drawn on speculation, but also said his party would act responsibly.
Speaking in detail about whether he would support a deal which would see Enda Kenny returned as Taoiseach, Mr Martin said: “I reject the premise that there can be only one result.”
The party set out its four main priorities:
The creation of decent jobs;
Cut costs for families and improve services;
Tackling crime and securing home ownership;
In terms of headline taxation issues, the party is committing to abolishing the Universal Social Charge for low and middle income earners up to €80,000.
Talking in relation to calls to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, Mr Martin said his TDs will have a free vote.
He said he personally is pro-life but is open to other views.
“I am pro-life personally but I am open the views being expressed and examining,” he said.
As part of a package of measures to “reduce the cost of living,” the party is committing to the establishment of a €2,000 childcare support credit for working parents as well as enhancing the quality and sustainability of childcare.
The party is also committing to extending maternity leave benefit to 30 weeks and allow for shared leave.
Fianna Fáil is also promising to increasing child benefit by €10 a week, and to reducing class sizes to 23 children per teacher.
The party, which lost 58 seats in 2011, has vowed to increasing the state pension by €30 a week and the living alone allowance to €15 a week.
Mr Martin said the party will ensure older people can live independently in their home as long as possible.
He criticised the Government for bringing through “three fraudlent budgets” in the past three years while committing to reduce treatment and Emergency Department waiting times.
The party says it wants to rebalance the health system towards primary care as well as creating a new National Mental Health strategy.
They said they want to increase Garda numbers to 15,000 and the Garda reserves to 2,500, as well as seeking to toughen sentencing laws including mandatory terms.
Addressing questions about past mistakes made by the last Fianna Fáil government, Mr Martin insisted: “We have learned the lessons from our past mistakes. We acknowledge we got it wrong in terms of pro-cyclical policies, but the Banking Inquiry said the blame was shared across the political spectrum."