Fianna Fáil under fire for ‘old basic income’ policy

Fianna Fáil has been accused of launching a policy it dismissed as unworkable more than a decade ago, after the party claimed it will introduce a “basic income level” system to replace existing social welfare supports.

Launching his party’s social protection priorities should it form part of the next government, social protection spokesperson Willie O’Dea said Fianna Fáil plans to “examine putting in place a basic income level” for everyone in Ireland.

The scheme — which Mr O’Dea said could be implemented within six months — involves cutting some social welfare supports and changing the tax credit system to ensure basic income of workers is above social welfare.

Fianna Fáil said the initiative will ensure people benefit from working and ensure the social protection system is focussed clearly on those who need it most.

Responding to the plans last night, Fine Gael said Fianna Fáil already examined the proposal in a Green Paper while in government in 2002, in which it said the ESRI found would have “major negative dynamic impacts on the economy”.

“For its critics, basic income would cause an overall reduction in national income and involves moving away from the current progressive tax system to an inherently unfair high flat rate tax system. If basic income is so attractive to Fianna Fáil now, why didn’t they introduce it then,” a spokesperson said.

Mr O’Dea last night responded saying “it says a lot” that Fine Gael “is prepared to go back 13 years to find an argument”, adding: “This may come as news to Fine Gael, but Ireland in 2015 is a very different place to 2002”.

The Fianna Fáil plan also includes proposals to abolish compulsory retirement for those aged 65 and older, make home care packages a statutory entitlement and increase rent supplement by 10%-15%.

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