13128108 DAYNA LAWLOR

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Fine Gael was the only party with a clear long-term economic plan, he claimed. Its three steps are more and better jobs, making work pay, and investing in public service. The Taoiseach criticised both Fianna Fál's and Sinn Féin's economic plans, saying they fought tooth and nail every jobs plan. Mr Kenny said the high tax policies of Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil would bring the recovery to a "shuddering halt". He pledged to bring the unemployment rate to 6% and create jobs across the country, with an emphasis on balanced regional growth.

Fine Gael will also introduce a new working family payment, to get away from what Mr Kenny called "the welfare trap". It needed to be worth people's while to go to work, the Taoiseach said. The party is also planning enhanced investment in public services.

"There will be no additional resources for services if we do not keep recovery going," he added.

  • He said the party was aiming for 200,000 jobs by 2020, with 70,000 emigrants returning and said Fine Gael will invest €42bn in vital infrastructure.
  • Fine Gael is also going to invest €4bn in a jobs fund and maintain the corporate tax rate, the party said.
  • The first official day of campaigning in the General Election is under way.

Economic issues have been to the fore on the campaign trail of Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil.

The Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit and the Green Party will be launching their election campaigns.

Leader of Sinn Féin Gerry Adams is on hustings in Dublin and Louth.

ánaiste Joan Burton was in Drogheda in Co Louth this morning outlining the party's plan for full employment by 2018, while Fianna Fáil attacked the Government's health record.

Speaking in Waterford, Micheál Martin accused the Government of creating chaos and instability in the health service.

He said the Government lacked direction, and its "botched" policies had made the health service a difficult place for staff to work and for patients to be treated.

Renua leader Lucinda Creighton said her party is committed to simplifying the tax system by introducing a flat rate of tax of 23%.

On Today with Sean O'Rourke she said that this plan would generate more money in take home pay which will have a positive knock on effect for the local economy.

An Ipsos MRBI poll published in today's Irish Times suggests that Fine Gael is on 28%, down two percentage points on the previous survey in November.

Fianna Fáil is on 21%, up two, Sinn Féin, 19% down two, the Labour Party unchanged at 7% with Independents and others on 25%, up two.

Yesterday Taoiseach Enda Kenny announced the election would take place on 26 February with polling stations open between 7am - 10pm.

The Dáil will return on 10 March.

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