Seven party leaders will go head to head in tonight’s election debate. It’s the first time in the campaign that they will come face-to-face on television.
Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, the Labour Party, Solidarity-People Before Profit, the Green Party and the Social Democrats will all participate on the Claire Byrne Live show at 9:35pm.
All eyes will be on Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, as controversy surrounded her exclusion from the Virgin Media debate between Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin, and will also be excluded from the Prime Time debate between the pair.
Moving into the second half of the campaign, parties are continuing to focus on different aspects of their campaign on a daily basis.
Today, Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesperson and Cork South Central’s Michael McGrath outlined the party’s policies to tackle high insurance costs, while also saying that the party is very ambitious, and believe they will be able to form an alternative Government. However, he refused to be drawn on how that will happen, given the party has said they won’t work with Fine Gael or Sinn Féin.
Fine Gael, meanwhile, detailed its education policies today, while Labour outlined its plans for better pay and job security including a real living wage, a right to trade union representation in the workplace, flexible work arrangements and an examination of the four-day week.
Sinn Féin has said if they lead the Government they would set up a pay review commission on Defence Forces Pay within six months, and the Green Party launched their water quality and conservation policy, as well as their ten year plan for rural Ireland.
With the general election campaign well underway, groups representing carers, charities and businesses are laying out what they want to see from the next Government.
Family Carers Ireland has launched its ‘Family Carers Canvass Card’. It outlines the main areas where change is urgently needed to support family carers, and the group are asking people to question candidates on key issues the canvass trail.
Family Carers Ireland’s Head of Communications and Carer Engagement, Catherine Cox said: “Family Carers Ireland are urging candidates in the forthcoming election to prioritise family carers in the next Government. Please ask candidates in the 2020 election what they will do to support Ireland’s 355,000 family carers, because no one should have to care alone.” Concern Worldwide are urging the Irish electorate to prioritise issues which impact directly on the world’s most vulnerable people, such as climate change, and promoting peace and prosperity, when engaging with candidates and political parties during the election campaign.
“In a world where conflict and climate change have pushed the numbers of people in need to unprecedented levels, it is vital that as a nation we retain our compassion and our commitment to overseas aid and a better world,” Concern Worldwide CEO Dominic MacSorley said.
Ibec meanwhile, the group that represents business, have said that the delivery of infrastructure in Cork must be a priority for the next government.
Ibec Cork Regional President Sean Moran said: “Cork is growing at pace and needs critical infrastructure to support growth and enhance regional connectivity and competitiveness, which are vital to a thriving regional economy.
“The lack of quality infrastructure is having a direct effect on expansion plans, business productivity, the quality of life of employees and ability of companies to attract and retain talent.”
Sinn Féin’s Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has criticized his constituency colleague Micheál Martin for ‘flip-flopping’ on the rent issue.
Sinn Féin’s Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire hit out at Mr Martin: “In December, Mr Martin was making statements in the Dáil calling for a rent freeze. It had taken him four years to even do that much. Now, he has flip-flopped on it. It is clear, just like Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil have very little interest in delivering change for struggling renters. It seems the Fianna Fáil will simply say anything to get back into power.
“Sinn Féin will take emergency action to address the rental crisis by reducing rents by up to €1,500 a year with a refundable tax credit, alongside introducing a three year freeze on all existing and new rents,” he said.
“This would be accompanied by increasing the stock of affordable rental accommodation and reducing the State’s reliance on subsidised private rental accommodation to meet social need,” Mr Ó Laoghaire added.
Labour candidate in Cork North Central John Maher, meanwhile, has said that he won’t sell his soul for the Labour Party.
“We have set out five very clear red lines: housing, health, infrastructure, childcare, and the climate.
“Unless we set high targets, I’m not interested. I’m not going up as a nodding dog,” he said.
Meanwhile, crime has emerged as one of the biggest issues of this election in Cork, and with an incident in Mr Maher’s own area of Mayfield in recent weeks, he said that the majority of people in his area are scared and feel they are being failed by the powers that be.
“It’s very, very basic. When you have gangs that don’t fear the law and order of our community, there’s the problem. We’ve been too lenient on them. The dogs on the street know where they are.
“99% of people are good, honest, hardworking, community people. That mustn't be forgotten. But we need action. My phone is ringing with people who are afraid.
“We know the solution. More Gardaí on the street. Drew Harris [Garda Commissioner] needs to come down to Cork. He needs to see the severity of it,” he said.