Giving Workers and Families a Break - A Manifesto for Change
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has launched Sinn Féin's 2020 General Election manifesto this afternoon, saying:
"This is a manifesto for change. It is a manifesto to give workers and families a break, to put money back in people's pockets and to fix the housing crisis.
"It is a manifesto that sets out Sinn Féin commitment to working for Irish Unity and sets out a pathway towards Unity.
"The solutions contained in this manifesto are progressive and positive, uplifting and fair; they are modern and they are achievable.
"There is something fundamentally wrong, when four years after this government came into office, people have less money in their pockets.
"This is a manifesto that seeks to give back to the people whose hard work and effort created the economic recovery by putting money back in their pockets.
"It is a manifesto that will use the economic recovery to deliver better health services, better education services and better transport services, and that prioritises investing in frontline staff including doctors, nurses, teachers and Gardaí.
"This is a manifesto that delivers for those with disabilities and for rural communities; including family farmers.
"Irish Unity is the very best idea for the future of our island.
"Everyone is talking about Irish Unity, except the government and Fianna Fáil.
"The institutions in the north are back up and running and we need to start planning for a Unity referendum so that we can reap the economic benefits of a United Ireland.
"This manifesto commits to work for the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and to establishing an all-island representative Citizen's Assembly to discuss and plan for Irish Unity.
"In government, Sinn Féin will publish a White Paper on Irish Unity, establish a Joint Oireachtas Committee on Irish Unity and secure a referendum, north and south, on Irish Unity
"The Good Friday Agreement provides the pathway to Irish Unity. All parties must respect this and we must now put the people of Ireland at the centre of this conversation.
" That is what Sinn Féin will do.
"People are entitled to a roof over their head that they can afford.
"Sinn Féin has put housing at the centre of our manifesto.
" We will take on the housing crisis and we will solve it.
"The single biggest failure of Fine Gael in government, supported by Fianna Fáil, is that rents are too high, Council house waiting lists are too long and there is no affordable accommodation.
"A whole generation of young people are now locked out of homeownership, thinking about emigrating and moving back in with their parents in their thirties.
"Eoin Ó Broin has set out how we will deliver the biggest public housing programme in our history and how we will cut rents and freeze them.
"Sinn Féin will ensure that affordable housing is available and really affordable to people, and we will end the scandal of homelessness.
"We will introduce legislation to reduce rents by up to €1,500 a year, via a refundable tax credit and freeze them for three years.
"We will build 100,000 homes over five years. This will include Council housing and affordable homes for renters and first time buyers.
"We will also give the Central Bank the powers to cap mortgage interest rates so customers are not being ripped off. This would comply fully with EU rules.
"These changes will make a meaningful difference in the lives of people at the cold front of the housing crisis.
"What I am hearing loud and clear from voters throughout this campaign is that ordinary people need a break.
"They are working hard, working long hours, many of them are commuting and yet despite this they are left with little disposable income at the end of each week.
"They feel like they are running to stand still. They know that someone else is reaping the benefits of the economic recovery. So it's time to give them a break.
"In this manifesto we have set out how we will do this.
"Sinn Féin will give all workers a tax cut by exempting the first €30,000 you earn from USC; benefitting all workers.
"This will mean no USC is paid on the first €30,000 you earn. This will put up to €700 back in your pocket per annum and take one million workers out of the USC.
"We will also reduce the tax burden by abolishing the property tax, saving families an average of €244 a year.
"It is shocking that many parents are paying the equivalent of a second mortgage for childcare.
"Under the Fine Gael government, supported by Fianna Fáil, childcare fees have rocketed for parents, staff turnover in the sector is chronically high and scandals such as those exposed by Prime Time have shocked and frightened parents.
"At €800 per month, the average childcare fee is simply unaffordable for most.
"Sinn Féin will reduce the cost of childcare by an average of €500 per child per month.
"We will cap and reduce fees while increasing funding for the sector. We also provide for improved pay and conditions for childcare staff.
"Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have allowed insurance companies in Ireland to believe they are untouchable.
"Pearse Doherty has led the way in taking on the insurance industry that has been ripping off customers.
"In this manifesto we set how we will reduce premiums by taking on the industry's unfair practices and lies.
"We also commit to greater state intervention - that means exploring all options - within the first 100 days of government, to intervene in the failing insurance market to ensure childcare providers, small businesses and those in the community sector are not left without insurance or facing exorbitant costs
"People should have the right to retire at the age of 65 with a State pension.
"That is what is fair, just and it is in line with the values of the Irish people.
"Sending someone to a dole queue at the age of 65 is obscene, and insisting that people have to work until they are almost 70 - whether they want to or not - is obscene.
"In 2011, the Labour Party and Fine Gael introduced legislation to increase the pension age - it increased to 66 in 2014 and will rise to 67 in 2021 and 68 in 2028.
"Fianna Fáil supported this legislation and voted for it. Unlike others who have flip-flopped on this issue, Sinn Féin opposed it then and now.
"We will stop the pension age increase to 67 and will return it to 65.
"Returning the retirement age to 65 is affordable. The cost of implementing this will be €368 million per year and this will be paid from the Social Insurance Fund which has surplus of €1.4 billion.
"These measures on the USC, property tax, childcare insurance and pensions represent real economic recovery - that's money in people's pockets and that's what really counts.
"Our manifesto has been costed by the relevant government Departments and is affordable and will be delivered. There will be no borrowing necessary. In fact, we will run surpluses and have a surplus of more than €3 billion in 2025.
"All taxpayers who earn under €100,000 will see a decrease in their tax of up to €700 a year.
"There is no party more ambitious for workers, for families, or for Irish society than Sinn Féin.
"People are looking for solutions. They are looking for change.
"They are looking for something new from government.
"Making sure everybody has a home.
"Making sure everybody can see a doctor when they are sick.
"Making sure everybody gets a decent education.
"Sinn Féin has the solutions.
"Now we need the chance.
"This election is about choices.
"Do voters want more of the same? Or do they want change that will solve the housing crisis, that will put money back in people's pockets, deliver better public services and plan for Irish Unity?
"This is a manifesto for giving workers and families a break.
"This is a manifesto for change.
"Is é Sinn Féin an t-aon páirtí atá tiomanta d'fhaoiseamh a thabhairt d'oibrithe agus do theaghlaigh. Tá cinneadh tábhachtach le déanamh ag an phobail san am amach atá romhainn.
"An rud céanna arís, nó Sinn Féin.
"Ar an 8ú lá de Feabhra, vótáil Sinn Féin.