The Fianna Fáil ard fheis saw Government lashed for its failures in health, two-tier recovery, housing, and rural crime, with delegates insisting the crises prove why the Fine Gael-Labour Coalition needs to be removed.
The opposition party made the pitch for power as briefing books on how to answer tough questions on the party’s own track record were handed out during set-piece events on the issues which, due to the close proximity of the now imminent general election, took place without any motions from the floor.
Addressing the Making Communities Safer section of the national meeting, Fianna Fáil justice spokesmaon Niall Collins said since entering office the initials ‘FG’ have stopped standing for Fine Gael and now mean “fewer gardaí”.
The Limerick-based TD said Ireland is suffering from a knife-crime “sub-culture of killing people”, including 19 alone last year, and that, if elected, his party would introduce a “mandatory” 12 months sentence for anyone found “illegally carrying a knife”.
He continued by hitting out at the Coalition for what he said is a lax attitude to addressing crime by noting “last year a rapist pleaded guilty and got a suspended sentence” and that little, in his view, has been done to track gangs who are “using the motorways” to travel and “carry out criminal, horrific acts”.
At a separate meeting on Creating An All-Ireland Recovery, jobs spokesman Dara Calleary said the Fine Gael-Labour Government has failed to “spread the recovery across the island”, with 42% of the jobs and growth based in Dublin compared to just 22% of Britain’s recovery being from London.
The Mayo TD said, if in power, Fianna Fáil will “ban the practice of zero hour contracts”, adding that “Fine Gael has thrown Labour overboard [on this issue] so often it’s no wonder Joan fell overboard in Kilkenny in September”.
Addressing the ard fheis Securing Home Ownership debate, senator and Meath East candidate Thomas Byrne said there has been “a five-fold increase” in families becoming homeless since 2012, but that Fine Gael’s only answer is to use ghost estates “for a political charge” in its adverts “and not to house people”.
During a separate health service meeting, health spokesman Billy Kelleher said Fianna Fáil will “shift the focus” of funding back to GP services in a bid to tackle health issues before they are “life-threatening” if elected — but added unlike Fine Gael his policies will not just be “Googling about Holland and dropping it in”.
The comments came as delegates were given two detailed pamphlets on how to answer tough questions while canvassing.
Although the official reason for the documents is to provide a one-stop shop for policy overviews, the opening pages stress the party did not cause the crash but that delegates should still apologise if asked.
“It was a global economic crash. However, we did make some mistakes and we are sorry about that,” page four of the documents instructed canvassers to explain.
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