Fianna Fáil has warned of a rising number of stealth charges hitting families and said the public is right not to trust the Coalition’s agenda in setting up Irish Water.
Party leader Micheál Martin said his party would create a new position at the cabinet table to oversee communities as he committed his party to reversing severe cuts to services.
Addressing delegates at the party’s ard fheis over the weekend, Mr Martin admitted mistakes were made in the past but vowed that Fianna Fáil would now engage in “honest budgeting”.
Attacking the Coalition from the stage at the RDS, he said: “A government of spin and broken promises is now obsessed with trying to buy re-election. They just don’t get it. They are so out of touch and arrogant that they have absolutely no idea why people are so angry with them.
“Services had been slashed in health, in rural Ireland, while elsewhere there was a crisis in class sizes and household debt.”
Mr Martin said that what matters to families is not just income tax, but what is left after paying the increasing number of new taxes and charges.
“The headlines announced on budget day bear no relationship to what you actually have to pay to the State. Every income tax change is matched and exceeded by a rising number of other taxes and charges,” said Mr Martin.
“It’s time to have honest budgets which reflect the reality of what people actually pay — and to start targeting relief on those who need it the most.”
Focusing on Irish Water, Mr Martin said: “People are also right not to trust the Government’s agenda in creating Irish Water.
“It is almost the exact opposite of what a public service should be. €180m has been spent on setting up a company which itself does nothing but install redundant meters and issue bills.
“The work of fixing pipes is still being done by the same people as always — in our local authorities — and because of Irish Water, there is less money for this than before.
“Irish Water should be abolished. It has failed and it should go before it does any more damage.”
Meanwhile, Noel Dempsey, a former Fianna Fáil transport minister, has said Fianna Fáil should stay out of government and spend another term on the opposition benches in order to properly rebuild the party.
Mr Dempsey, who attended his first party ard fheis in 1974, said there was optimism in the air but that, if the election was held in the morning, Fianna Fáil would be under a fair amount of pressure.
He said it would take two elections before the party might be ready to consider entering government again.
“Fianna Fáil need a little bit longer to rebuild, I don’t think they should rush into Government next time around,” Mr Dempsey said.
“I think we need this general election and another local election to really be in a position of rebuilding the party.”
The latest Red C poll puts Fianna Fáil on 19%, lower than the 25% it secured in support at last year’s local elections.
Mr Dempsey’s comments came as delegates over the weekend voted for Fianna Fáil not to go into any government with Fine Gael after the next general election.
One delegate said such a move would be the final nail in Fianna Fáil’s coffin. The motion is not binding.
Mr Martin said the party must focus on getting elected as opposed to making deals after the next general election.
However, his leadership and the party itself again faced internal criticism during the course of the ard fheis, with Carlow-Kilkenny TD John McGuinness saying policies had been rushed out in recent days.