Micheál Martin and Simon Coveney clash in opening hours of general election campaign

Micheál Martin and Simon Coveney clash in opening hours of general election campaign
Micheal Martin and Simon Coveney.

MICHEÁL Martin and Simon Coveney have clashed in the opening hours of the general election campaign.

The Fianna Fáil leader described Fine Gael as “stale” and “out of touch” and said the Government had failed to tackle the health crisis.

“Why should people from Cork have to go to Belfast to get their cataracts done? It’s absolutely shameful,” he said.

Mr Martin said he would aim to solve the issue locally, at the South Infirmary, should he be elected to lead the country.

"That’s the kind of thing I want to end with practical, pragmatic, early solutions that we can deliver on the South Infirmary campus early on,” he added.

Deputy Martin claims a Fianna Fáil-led Government would achieve real progress on housing and reducing the cost of living.

“These are issues that we are picking up continuously on the doorsteps. 

“In terms of housing, young people feel that they’ve no prospect of buying a house. The rents are too high. We will have comprehensive proposals in that regard."

Tánaiste Simon Coveney hit back, saying: “In the last three years of the last Fianna Fáil Government, which Micheál Martin was central to, 356,000 people lost their jobs.

“Cork had an unemployment rate of close to 15%. We’re now at almost full employment. Cork has one of the lowest unemployment figures in the country.

“We still have unemployment blackspots, and we need to work with some people who are looking to retrain, but nobody should take a strong stable, economy for granted.”

When asked about the homelessness and housing crisis, the Tánaiste told The Echo: “The election isn’t just on those topics, that’s the important thing.

“The question is — is Ireland moving in the right direction in these areas?

“It’s not too long ago when Cork City Council, in an entire year, built only one social house, back in 2014. They currently have well over 1,000 under construction."

“My fear is that if we change Government now and if we change the approach to housing to the Fianna Fáil way, which is to build another housing bubble, or to the Sinn Féin way which expects the State to provide everybody with a house, then I think we will undermine the hard-earned progress we have seen over the last three years,” he said.

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