By Daniel McConnell, Political Editor
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has branded Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin's personalised attack on him as an “act of desperation”.
Speaking in the Netherlands earlier today, Mr Kenny said the lead opposition party is now “convulsed” with attacking Fine Gael ahead of the General Election.
Mr Kenny, whose standing as leader was called into question by Mr Martin, said the Fianna Fáil leader's attack was an attempt to distract people from the battle his own party is having with Sinn Féin.
Mr Kenny said: "Micheal Martin is a direct link to the party that drove our country off an economic cliff. Every single thing that Fianna Fáil has done is now a blind of the row they are having with Sinn Féin."
During a sometimes tetchy radio interview on RTE Radio 1, Mr Martin said the Irish people no longer want Enda Kenny as Taoiseach, adding that it was a recurring theme coming up on the doors.
Mr Martin for the second day in a row, said Mr Kenny's desire to move to a US-style tax system would cause enormous damage to public services.
Mr Martin also told broadcaster Sean O'Rourke that his party can lead the next Government, but struggled to outline a possible scenario which would deliver sufficient numbers in the Dáil to make that happen.
Mr Martin said it is still very possible for Fianna Fáil to become the largest party after the forthcoming election.
He said there is an immediate perogative to remove Enda Kenny and Fine Gael from office, given the damage they have done to health and other services.
Recently, the party’s director of elections, Cork North-Central TD, Billy Kelleher publicly said he expected Fianna Fáil to win about 40 seats on a good day – vastly short of being the biggest party.
But today, the Fianna Fáil leader insisted that the opinion polls – which put them below 20% and close to their score in the 2011 electoral annihilation – were understating the party’s support.
Mr Martin said surveys before the May 2014 general election suggested Fianna Fáil would be in third place. But in fact they emerged as the largest party in local councils with 25% of the vote and 266 councillors.
He also delivered a scathing verdict on Fine Gael and Enda Kenny. He said they were offering huge tax cuts which would devastate public services.
He said: "Already the health services were in chaos and there were not enough council workers to fight against problems like flooding – but the Government were pledging American-style rates of tax.
“When you have US tax rates – you have US inequality,” Mr Martin insisted. Mr Martin said Labour had failed to put the brakes on Fine Gael in government – as they had promised.
In response, the Taoiseach said the Fine Gael and Labour Party coalition "have a clear plan and a strategy to fulfil the remit given to us by the people to fix our public finances and put the country back to work
“Fianna Fáil has opposed every one of those measures and what they want to do is go back to the same old way where they destroyed public services that we are now rebuilding,” he added.
“Fianna Fáil's desperation attack is something that is now beginning to convulse the party where for our point of view we have a very clear perspective where we want to reduce the taxation burden, create more jobs and then you can have an engine to drive the economy,” the Taoiseach said.