Labour claims Sinn Féin offering workers ‘big fat zero’ in tax relief

Tánaiste Joan Burton has said Sinn Féin will offer a “big fat zero” in tax relief for low and middle-income workers as she also played down the latest opinion poll slumps for Labour.

After one weekend poll put her party on just 4%, Ms Burton also dismissed warnings from economists about being prudent with the economy and said workers deserved relief. She said a couple both on €35,000 each would get five times more tax relief under Labour than under a Sinn Féin-led government.

Mixed weekend polls still leave Labour with single-digit support, with the closing days of the campaign now in sight. A Red C poll left the party with 8% while a Behaviour and Attitudes survey found just 4% of people would vote for Labour.

But Ms Burton, launching the party’s priorities for low and middle- income workers, said it was not difficult to keep the party’s candidates upbeat.

The party leader had said at the weekend she was a “fighter”, after the shock poll, which some suggest was down to her poor performance during last week’s RTÉ leaders’ debate.

The last TV debate, among the four major party leaders, will take place tomorrow, at which Ms Burton’s performance will be closely watched.

Launching Labour’s proposals to save workers cash, she claimed that only her party would ensure that tax cuts benefit lower and middle-income earners the most.

“If people want to see restoration, recovery, and fairness, they have to give very serious consideration to the Labour party’s programme which is costed.”

Labour outlined how a teacher on €44,900 a year would pay €1,768 less tax, a nurse on €34,000 would pay €1,200 less, and a retail worker on €21,800 would save €1,000.

Ms Burton said that Sinn Féin’s offer to any of those workers was a “very large fat zero”, as well as what was being offered by the Social Democrats.

Criticising her opponents’ election promises, Ms Burton said: “I think it is a poor economic programme that suggests that workers get no tax relief at all.”

Labour has promised to eliminate the USC for those on up to €72,000 over five years. Personal tax credits would also be withdrawn for those on over €100,000.

The Labour leader also had warnings for any party thinking of relying on independents for support in government after the election.

“I think it would be quite difficult to keep their constituency lists satisfied. Inevitably, people in the next-door constituencies would want the same. The recovery has to bed down. But doing that with groups of independents who would have very local commitments, a lot of which would easily run into a couple of million [euro] at a time,” would be very difficult she said.

She noted this happened 15 years ago during Fianna Fáil-led governments.

“In those days, there was an awful lot of money around, so it was very possible to satisfy those demands. I think people underestimate how difficult it might be to do that this time,” said Ms Burton.

Labour, with another opinion poll due out today, is now at a fragile point in the campaign and will look to stress its core message this week.

This, say party sources, will include emphasising what would happen if Labour are not in government and differentiating itself from other parties, including Fine Gael.

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