Irish General Election Campaign in Full Swing
Job creation topped the agenda on the second full day of campaigning in Ireland’s general election.
Irish Prime Minister, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, called the election date for Saturday February 8th on Tuesday. Today, his party, Fine Gael, announced its economic plan. The plan commits to creating 200,000 new jobs in Ireland by 2025.
Fine Gael leads a minority Government in Ireland, with varying degrees of support from a number of independent members of parliament. The Government was further propped up by a 3-year confidence and supply arrangement with opposition party Fianna Fail, signed after the 2016 general election. The agreement was extended until clarity was reached on the completion of Brexit.
Both centrist main parties are matching closely in opinion polls.
The Government party is leading its campaign on its track record of job creation and economic stability, having come to power in Ireland nine years ago, guiding the country out of the economic recession.
However, to the forefront of the minds of many voters are a homeless crisis across the country, coupled with serious issues in the health service.
Latest figures from homeless charity Focus Ireland show 10, 488 homeless people in Ireland with the number of homeless families having increased by 300% since November 2014.
Ireland’s health service is plagued with record numbers of patients on trolleys, long waiting lists for health services in comparison to other European countries, cancellation of elective surgeries and delayed hospital discharges.
Focus remained firmly on the economy today as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said, ‘There are 2.3 million people at work in Ireland, more than ever before. Incomes are rising, poverty is falling, and our economy has never been stronger.’
Commenting on the plan, Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe said, ‘First, we will deliver more and better jobs. By 2025, we will deliver nearly 200,000 additional jobs right across the country and in key public sector roles like nurses, teachers, doctors and Gardaí.’
He said, ‘Second, our economic plan will increase investment in infrastructure steadily over the next five years to reach nearly €11 billion a year in 2025 – well ahead of the European average.’
The launch of the economic plan followed a controversial first day of campaigning after a homeless man was left in a critical condition, when the tent he was in was moved by an industrial vehicle in Dublin City Centre during a clean up operation.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s response to the incident was perceived by opposition politicians as an attempt to apportion blame away from Government when he called on the Lord Mayor of Dublin to explain how the incident had happened.
When asked about the incident by members of the media, Fianna Fail leader, Micheál Martin referred to the Taoiseach’s response as ‘extraordinary’.
(Image by EU2017EE via creativecommons.org)