Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has vowed to lead a moral government as he launched his party manifesto and accused Fianna Fáil of not knowing right from wrong.
The would-be taoiseach said his party’s plans for power contained common sense, credible and achievable proposals that would help steer the country from bankruptcy.
Slashing public service numbers, creating 100,000 jobs in five years and cutting the number of politicians were among the key planks of the 80-page document.
“What Fianna Fáil have done in Government in abdicating its responsibility to leave Ireland at the mercy of developers, the bankers and our supposed watchdogs, is not just immoral, it is amoral,” Mr Kenny said.
“And with this manifesto I say: No more.”
Buoyed by a steady performance on last night’s five way live leaders’ debate, Mr Kenny said Fine Gael was the only party to outline a costed, credible plan to restore the crippled economy.
While 30,000 jobs would be slashed in the public service – 18,000 through voluntary redundancies – Mr Kenny promised to protect frontline services.
Elsewhere, Fine Gael plans to reverse the ban on stag hunting with dogs, there will be no free to air Six Nations or Heineken Cup rugby matches, authorities would be allowed to check “soft information” on adults working with children and human embryo research will be made legal.
Also, men and women would be allowed to share leave after the birth of a child and supermarkets will be banned from selling below cost alcohol to protect the pub trade.
On law and order, Fine Gael will end prisoners’ rights to automatic remission and set up a DNA database.
A new state-owned water utility company will be created to run the supply system across the country before homeowners are charged for usage.
Fine Gael will also reform rules on Defence Forces participation in overseas missions, allowing Irish troops to join non-UN sanctioned actions.
Mr Kenny said the party remained committed to slashing the budget deficit to 3% by 2014, overhauling the health system to introduce universal health insurance based on the Dutch model, slashing the number of TDs by over a third and introducing car-pooling for ministers.
Finance spokesman Michael Noonan – potentially the next finance minister if the opinion polls hold true – reiterated that AIB should be put on the market.
And although a Fine Gael-led government may come to rely on the support of independents, Mr Kenny said he did not see any circumstances in which Michael Lowry would rejoin the party.
Fine Gael wants to merge the Competition Authority, the National Consumer Agency, Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, the Communications, and Energy regulators into a more powerful Competition, Consumer and Utilities Commission.
Political reform, which the party has already discussed in detail, includes cutting the number of TDs, abolishing the Seanad, limiting the use of the Government jet, pooling ministerial cars, reducing voter age to 17, greater powers for Dáil committees and a Constitution day within 12 months for a referendum on changes the party wants to make to institutions.
“As we’ve pointed out before this country is not banjaxed, far from it,” Mr Kenny said.
“We’ve overcome adversity in the past, we will overcome the challenges that we now face, but we’ll do it in a way that’s planned, that’s constructive, that’s credible and that’s achievable.”
He said the country could no longer continue writing blank cheques for the banks.
The party would also establish an all-party Oireachtas committee to examine the abortion question in the wake of the European Court of Human Rights’ judgment that the constitutional ban violates the rights or women.