Micheál Martin has warned Taoiseach Enda Kenny not to repeat the mistakes of Fianna Fáil’s pre-election budget giveaways.
The FF leader used a parliamentary party pre-Dáil think-in in Dublin to accuse the Coalition of attempting to buy voters in the looming general election.
Mr Martin said he was the only alternative Taoiseach to Mr Kenny, as he challenged the Fine Gael leader to a “no-holds barred” election debate. The Fianna Fáil leader said his party had learnt lessons the hard way from over-promising voters at election time as he urged Mr Kenny not to do the same.
Citing the 2007 campaign when Fianna Fáil Taoiseach Bertie Ahern abandoned a planned platform of economic prudence to launch a series of big spending sprees, Mr Martin said: “I would like to think we have learned lessons as a party from earlier elections, 2007 and earlier elections, that surely the lessons coming out of the economic crash are that political parties need to be straight with people and not make promises that they have no intention of fulfilling and also that we would cost our proposals.”
Mr Martin said the next election would “absolutely” just be a choice between himself and Mr Kenny for the position of Taoiseach as he said he would not go into Coalition with either Fine Gael of Sinn Féin.
“It’s up to the Taoiseach to come up front and debate publicly with me in relation to these issues and we could have a fulsome, energetic and active campaign where political leaders don’t just go for the soundbites or the organised PR opportunities but that we have no-holds barred debates with the Taoiseach and with others. I’m up for that, I hope the Taoiseach is,” Mr Martin said.
Speaking at the annual ‘think-in’ Mr Martin said the Government only cared about winning votes at any cost to the economy.
“Since its first day in office this government has been obsessed with the next general election. Fine Gael and Labour know they are in a deep hole which is why they are throwing out endless promises.
“Over the summer they made promises amounting to billions and now we see the one-for-everyone-in-the- audience approach taken to ridiculous levels with four separate groups being told that they are to be ‘the priority’,” Mr Martin said.
He denied his party had failed to generate policy initiatives while in opposition.
“We’re the most policy-producing opposition seen in a long time,” Mr Martin told RTÉ. He also hit back at suggestions he had squandered budget surpluses while minister for health.
“That is an outrageous assertion. Life expectancy has dramatically improved in the last decade. Cardiovascular strategy introduced in 1999 revolutionised how we deal with cancer in this country as well,” Mr Martin said.
He said if his party went was back in power it would abolish the structure of Irish Water, but would bring back water charges within six years. Mr Martin said Irish Water was a farce which was costing €70m a year.
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