Healy and McGrath join forces to take on coalition
Independent TDs join same technical group

Eamonn Lacey

Eamonn Lacey

The two independent TDs elected in South Tipperary have joined the same Dail technical group of independent deputies and have attacked the programme of government agreed on between Fine Gael and Labour.

Both Mattie McGrath and Seamus Healy hit out this week at the programme for government announced by the new Coalition, blasting their plans as ‘just more of the same’.

Five United Left Alliance deputies, including Seamus Healy, joined the Dail technical group and Deputy McGrath confirmed last evening that he had joined the same group.

Deputy Healy, who is one of five United Left Alliance TDs in the Dail, said the deal amounted to more of the same by Labour and Fine Gael. He accused the Labour Party of reneging on working people and the poor once again.

The WUAG founder said Labour had agreed to eliminate 25,000 public service jobs which would have a massive effect on public services.

“This cannot be done without devastating public services. The OECD in its report said that the Irish Public service was by no means overstaffed in comparison to that of other European countries. Labour has gone along with Thatcherite propaganda merely in order to hold office,” said Deputy Healy.

He hit out at Labour for agreeing to continue the Universal Social Charge in government.

“This charge has brought large reductions in low pay and occupational pensions. Not a red cent in tax is to be levied on huge personal assets. What a betrayal!” said Deputy Healy who vowed to play a role in building a national alternative to the Labour party.

Deputy McGrath said the people voted for change and he and other independents would continue to fight for change. He believed the programme for government was similar to that of Fianna Fail’s four year plan.

“I expect we will get better leadership from this new government than we did from Brian Cowen because we need stability more than ever,” he said.

He expressed disappointment that the new government had not done away with the Universal Social Charge and were intent on bringing in water charges. He also expressed concern over the failure of the new government to proceed on the abolition of the Seanad. He welcomed the decision to restore the minimum wage.

“We will have to work to demand change because that is what people voted for,” said Deputy McGrath.

He said the technical group created did not involve political affiliation. It just allowed those signed up to the group improved speaking time in the Dail and at committees.

While the programme of government was criticised by independent TDs, Fine Gael TD Tom Hayes has warmly welcomed the new programme .

“I believe that the Programme for Government provides the tools to get our country back working, our economy back functioning and our society back on track.

He was pleased that the NewEra plan will be implemented, and Enda Kenny has committed to a Jobs Bill in the next 100 days, which will see investment in telecoms, retrofitting, broadband, renewable energy and training.

“Creating an additional 15,000 places in training, cutting VAT from 13.5% to 12%, halving the lower rate of PRSI for lower paying jobs, abolishing the travel tax, investing in retrofitting, pushing forward capital programmes that are shovel ready and expanding the access to the Back to Education allowance are all very solid and well-thought out ways to get our economy back working, incentivise companies to hire and retain staff, and give our country the push it needs,” he said..

The FG poll topper said the conditions had to be created in the economy whereby people can create and sustain business and this aspect of the Programme for Government was excellent .

“Our plans for a micro-finance fund for start-up of new businesses and a partial guarantee to provide credit for businesses are among the steps that will see great effect in our country,” he said.

“I believe that the reform of the political system and of the civil service will be over-arching and that we will reap the rewards of the changes for generations to come. We will create a more efficient, less wasteful political system that tackles issues as they arise and solves the problems in this country, giving voice to ordinary people, with vouched expenses for politicians, a more accountable Dáil that reflects the needs of the country, and with a responsive civil service that can better tackle things like e-government. The public servants that I meet want to work hard and can all give instances of waste in their sections and we will ensure that tax-payers money, which is all too valuable is used to best effect,” he said.

“The focus on education, on literacy at primary level will lay the building blocks for the future and goes hand-in-hand with our plans to reform the health system, which will bring about universal health insurance in stages over the coming years. These reforms are far-reaching and will create a fairer society where people’s access to healthcare and education is based on equality,” said the former FG party chairman who is a contender for a junior ministry when those posts are handed out by cabinet in two weeks time.

Deputy Hayes said that when the Programme for Government was signed off he highlighted again the need for hospitals like South Tipperary General to be retained and grown as they provide excellent care to a large amount of the population, who need to have access to high-quality healthcare.

“I really feel that the Programme for Government will enable us to get our economic crisis behind us, get the banks back in hand, get a better deal from the IMF/EU and get the results this country needs and I am very glad that the programme has been accepted as the blueprint for us to work from,” he said.

Labour’s defeated general election candidate Phil Prendergast is expected to take up her seat in the European Parliament next month.

She said that a process had to be gone through to allow her take up the seat which could take a few weeks.

“It will be an immense challenge and I am looking forward to taking on that challenge by representing the interests of Munster in Europe,” she said.

Another the defeated general election candidate Dr.Martin Mansergh has been nominated by the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association (ITBA) as one of their two nominees to contest the forthcoming Seanad General Election in April on the Agricultural Panel. Dr Mansergh was nominated by the ITBA alongside Paul Bradford of Fine Gael in 2002, and was subsequently elected as a Senator, serving in Seanad Eíreann until May 2007.