Fine Gael’s five point plan

Kenny sets out five FG policy areas for election

HARRY McGEE, Political Correspondent

FINE GAEL leader Enda Kenny has said his party’s general election campaign will focus on a five-point policy platform aimed at restoring the economy and regaining Ireland’s international status.
Mr Kenny said the five policy areas would be: job creation, low taxes, a new health system based on universal insurance, smaller government and political reform.He outlined the five-point plan in Dublin yesterday at an event to introduce the party’s candidates for the election.
Most of the 102 candidates who will contest the election for Fine Gael in 43 constituencies were in the Mansion House yesterday for the photocall and candidate briefing by senior party officials.
In a speech to the candidates, Mr Kenny said the five-point plan would buttress the country’s recovery over the next five years.
“It will give light, clarity and direction to what will be a difficult journey to a better future ahead,” he told the gathering.
Mr Kenny promised that Fine Gael would create 20,000 jobs a year over four years by cutting employers’ PRSI and by investing the remaining €7 billion from the National Pension Reserve Fund and the proceeds from State assets into developing key infrastructures.
He said the message on taxes was that a Fine Gael-led government would prioritise cuts over raising taxes. “High taxes kill jobs. We will keep taxes – particularly income taxes – down. No country has ever taxed its way to economic recovery.”
On health, he promised that Fine Gael would introduce a completely new health service.
The universal health insurance plan, based on the Dutch model, would dismantle the HSE, provide health insurance to all citizens, with health service provision and administration being privatised.
Turning to the “small government” point, he said streamlining the public service would reduce costs by €5 billion.
He did say that essential services would be protected but was silent on possible reductions in employee numbers.
The fifth policy area, political reform, would lead to the number of politicians being cut by over a third, said Mr Kenny, with a ceiling on higher public service salaries.
He also said that Fine Gael would introduce a car pooling system for Ministers.
He also confirmed his party’s plan to abolish the Seanad.
Mr Kenny clarified he was opposed to either a three-way debate on the airwaves with Eamon Gilmore and Micheál Martin or a one-on-one debate with either political opponent.
“Let me be very clear about this. The situation is very different from any previous election I have fought. There is no incumbent taoiseach fighting this election,” Mr Kenny said.
“Traditionally the debates have been between the taoiseach and the would-be taoiseach.
“We can’t live by the old ways any more. I want people of the country to [hear] all the leaders of all [five] parties.
“People are asking for debate. Some people might like to hide in studios rather than face the people at the doors.”
He said he had already committed to two five-leader debates, one in English and one in Irish.
Asked was he definitively ruling out a head-to-head debate with Mr Martin or Mr Gilmore, he said: “I will look at the full schedule before I look at the leaders’ debate.
“I am one for inclusion. I don’t want Mr Adams, Baron Adams, excluded from these debates. I don’t want John Gormley excluded from these debates.
“Micheál Martin does not want to be back in government. If Eamon [Gilmore] wants to talk to me I’ll step up to the microphone anywhere.”
He also ruled out any deal with Fianna Fáil that would see the latter support a minority Fine Gael government.
Asked about the weekend opinion polls which suggested Fianna Fáil’s new leader Mr Martin was the preferred choice of voters as taoiseach, Mr Kenny said that he never commented on polls.
He also defended the number of female Fine Gael candidates. He said that more women were standing than ever before.