Fine Gael’s approach to the 2020 election campaign has been dismissed as “project fear” by the party’s lead opponents, who have described it as “the sign of a party becoming increasingly desperate”.
“No matter what we say they will attack us,” Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesman Michael McGrath said. “They have clearly chosen to play the man and not the ball.
“They say we are reckless, and not fit for office, then the next day they say they want to go into Government with us.”
Mr McGrath was speaking, along with Longford Westmeath TD Robert Troy, at his party’s insurance policy launch in Dublin.
Fine Gael has, Mr Troy said, kicked the issue of exorbitant insurance premiums across industry “to the long grass”.
“There has been a completely hands-off approach by Cabinet,” Mr McGrath said, citing the fact that Michael D’Arcy, the minister with responsibility for insurance reform, does not hold senior office.
“We know from parliamentary questions and freedom of information requests that there was no direct interaction with the insurance industry,” he said.
His party has now pledged to “fully establish” the nascent Judicial Council in order to provide guidance on personal injury claims, and reform the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) in order to make it an offence not to comply with it.
Mr McGrath said that his party will “ensure that fraudulent claims are forwarded to the DPP” and that fraudulent claimants will pay the legal expenses for defendants.
The party also pledged to establish a publicly funded Garda Fraud Unit, to publish insurance fraud data, and to “work to remove dual pricing from the market”, a trend which Mr McGrath described as “simply not fair”.
It will, it said, prioritise the establishment of a fully functioning European-wide single insurance market, despite the actioning of such a policy being the remit of the European Union.
The major thrust of the presentation was that an elected Fianna Fáil government will prioritise the insurance crisis where the current administration has not.
“We will have a determined focus, and a Cabinet and ministers willing to get their hands dirty,” Mr McGrath said.
He said that, should his party be elected, it would immediately call a “crisis summit” as a matter of priority to discuss the issues facing the sector.
“It is vital that we get a hold of data and put an actual cost on liability in Ireland,” he said.
However, much of the conference was taken up by comparisons with Fine Gael’s record in Government, and in rebutting accusations that have been made regarding the perceived lack of detail in Fianna Fáil’s proposals.
On that subject, Mr McGrath said that his party’s manifesto, released last Friday, is “fully costed”, and that the detailed tables demonstrating same will be released on Tuesday.
He was less willing to be drawn as to what kind of Government Fianna Fáil will actually be in a position to form, given it has ruled out any sort of coalition with either Fine Gael or Sinn Féin despite those options appearing to offer the most stable alternative administration.
That issue was drawn into focus by a tweet from the Taoiseach this morning suggesting that the possibility of Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil working together has been whispered “privately and not so privately for months” within the party.
Mr McGrath however resisted repeated questioning asking for clarity on the matter.
“The message we’re getting from the public is that they want a change in Government. We want to lead that Government. We have 84 candidates, and every one of them believes they have a chance of being elected,” he said.
“We’re very ambitious, and we think that we will be able to form an alternative Government.”