Micheál Martin says Taoiseach needs to focus on substance not style

Micheál Martin says Taoiseach needs to focus on substance not style
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said Taoiseach Leo Varadkar needs to focus more on the substance and delivery. Pic: Darragh Kane

FIANNA Fáil leader Micheál Martin said that An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar needs to focus on substance not style as he has not yet shown that he has a grip on his job.

"I have no evidence yet that he is getting to grips with the core issues and core challenges facing society. I think he needs to focus more on the substance and delivery and executing actual outcomes on housing, on health, on infrastructure," said Mr Martin, speaking to the Evening Echo.

Mr Martin said that the biggest announcement since Mr Varadkar took office has been the establishment of a strategic communication unit to better communicate the work of the government.

"That speaks volumes about prioritisation. Communications, per se, isn't the issue. Better communications doesn't put a roof over someone's head. That sits uneasily with people, the idea that we can spin our way out of this - record people on trollies, record waiting lists to get a hospital operation. That we can spin our way out of the fact that we are not building enough social houses, that young people can't get rent. That broadband in rural Ireland is in the state it is in," he said.

However, a spokesperson for the Taoiseach said that Mr Varadkar is focussed on progress, not spin.

"Micheál Martin is continuing to obsess over spin, rather than proposing workable solutions to the challenges we face. This week, Fianna Fáil’s big solution for the housing market was a €250 million tax cut for developers. The Taoiseach, meanwhile, is focussed on delivering a budget in less than five weeks that will avoid the mistakes made by Fianna Fáil in the past.

A spokesperson for the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Micheál Martin is continuing to obsess over spin, rather than proposing workable solutions to the challenges we face. Pic: Gareth Chaney Collins
A spokesperson for the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Micheál Martin is continuing to obsess over spin, rather than proposing workable solutions to the challenges we face. Pic: Gareth Chaney Collins

"Next year, the Government will balance our books for the first time in a decade reduce taxes on low and middle income earners in a sustainable way, while also increasing our investment in important infrastructure, like houses, roads, hospitals and schools. Employment has hit a 9 year low this year, we’re investing more than ever in our health services and doubled our investment in social housing," they said.

Mr Martin dismissed criticism of Fianna Fáil's call for a reduced 9% VAT rate for developers, which it said will lower house building costs and increase supply and affordability, as a return to 'Galway Tent' politics where the party favours developers.

"That's nonsense. We haven't had the Galway Tent in ten years. It's a move to get more houses built," he said.

He said that the government's strategies had not worked and housing had become a real crisis, highlighted by the deaths of three homeless people in recent days.

"I'd invite anybody to look at the record since 2012. It's been pitiful. Even the worst of times between 2007 and 2010 we were building more houses and more social houses.

"The record is lamentable. We had three people who died last week because of homelessness. This is a crisis. This is a scandal and an indictment on society," he said.

He said that measures like a drop in VAT were needed in order to reduce costs for builders and buyers.

"We can't just stand still and wash our hands and let the market work through this. We've been hearing that for the last four or five years. What we want is to get the cost down for the consumer, and bring a degree of affordability. At the moment, if we just let things continue as they are, a lot of people are going to be forced into a position where they have unsustainable debt around them. Surely, that's what we should be trying to avoid," he said.

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