Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has signaled that his party will no longer support the type of austerity measures that have marked budgetary policy over the past five years.
He accused the government of making it easy for banks to repossess homes, said the coalition had a new policy of attacking public servants, and that the Croke Park II deal had ended in abject failure.
Martin, in a half-hour long speech to the Fianna Fail Ard Fheis (annual convention), delivered a scintillating attack on the government -- but at the same time he indicated he would lead a party of constructive opposition which would support the government if it believed it was pursuing the correct policies.
He told 4,000 delegates at the Dublin convention that over €1 billion extra a year was available to the state because of European policy changes, including a cut in interest rates and a rescheduling of debt for Ireland and other states.
“This should be used to lessen the burden of new taxes, to fund an increased capital program and to protect health and education,” Martin said.
He said people no longer cared about party labels. What they wanted to hear about was the ideas Fianna Fail have come up with.
“Every day this government is making choices which are deeply unfair and which are destroying recovery,” he added. “This is a crisis that keeps changing and that needs new, more flexible and more creative responses.”
Martin criticized the government’s departments on a range of issues, contending it had failed to create jobs or stimulate recovery in the small and medium enterprise sector.
He said Fianna Fail would vote against the Home Repossession Bill this week. “It is wrong for the government to make it easy for the banks to repossess family homes,” he argued.
Giving banks full control of debt restructuring was not an agenda for action; it was “a recipe for escalating the human, social and economic damage.”
On Northern Ireland, Martin asserted that the British and Irish governments were disengaged from the peace process and that had created a vacuum which had led to recent riots and disruption.
Delegates at the convention overwhelmingly passed motions committing the party to a “pro-life” position, and opposing any legislation widening the grounds for abortion. They opposed any legislation introducing the risk of suicide as a ground for abortion.