Sinn Féin pledges to secure border poll within five years

Sinn Féin has pledged to secure a border poll within the next five years while also establishing a joint Oireachtas committee on a united Ireland.

The party unveiled its manifesto, which includes publishing a white paper on a united Ireland as well as setting a date to end “long-term” homelessness.

    Sinn Féin on Housing:

  • * Reduce rents by up to €1,500 a year, via a refundable tax credit and a three-year rent freeze
  • * Build 100,000 new homes over 5 year: €6.5bn
  • * Give the Central Bank powers to cap mortgage interest rates so customers are not ripped off
  • * Hold a referendum to enshrine the right to housing in the Constitution
  • * End long-term homelessness and the need to sleep rough
  • * Use Nama's €4bn projected surplus to fund spend on public housing

Among its pledges, Sinn Féin said it plans to abolish the Universal Social Charge on the first €30,000 earned and to abolish the property tax.

The party said it will reduce rents by up to €1,500 a year via a refundable tax credit and freeze rent for three years.

The party said it will also build 100,000 homes over the next five years.

This, it added, will include council housing and affordable homes for renters and first-time buyers at a cost of €6.5bn.

    Sinn Féin on Health:
  • * 2,500 more nurses and midwives: €134 million
  • * 1,000 more consultant doctors: €224 million
  • * Free GP care for all: €455 million
  • * Abolish emergency department charges: €48 million
  • * Remove hospital car parking charges: €22 million
  • * Increase hospital beds by 1,500 by 202: €1bn in capital spending and €480 million in current spending each year
  • * 1,250 more nursing home beds: no costings
  • * 12 million additional home help hours: €59 million

Sinn Féin has also pledged to give the Central Bank powers to cap mortgage interest rates.

The party also said it will reduce the cost of childcare by €500 per month and end third-level fees.

It also wants to lower the voting age to 16 and introduce gender quotas for ministers and increase the gender quota of Dáil elections to 50%.

    Sinn Féin on Tax:

  • * Abolish the USC for all under €30,000: €1.2bn per year
  • * Abolish Local Property Tax: €485 million per year
  • * Increase the earned income tax credit for self-employed to €1,650: no costing
  • * Introduce a 5% levy on all incomes above €140,000, tapered at a rate of 2.5% for every €1,000 above €100,000
  • * Maintain Corporate Tax Rate of 12.5%
  • * Introduce an 80% cap on profits offset for intangible assets by multi-nationals
  • * Introduce a 2nd-home charge at a rate of €400
  • * Introduce a 15.75% rate of employers' PRSI on salaries over €100,000

Sinn Féin said it also wants an hourly Belfast to Dublin train service.

Speaking at the launch at the Temple Bar Gallery and Studios in Dublin, party leader Mary Lou McDonald said people are looking for something new from government, including affordable homes, being able to see doctors and access to a decent education.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Mary Lou McDonald at the launch of Sinn Féin’s General Election manifesto in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)</figcaption>
Mary Lou McDonald at the launch of Sinn Féin’s General Election manifesto in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

“This is a manifesto for giving workers and families a break, this is a manifesto for change,” she said.

Ms McDonald said that the conversation around a united Ireland is happening among nationalists and unionists.

She said there is no sense in anyone “burying their heads”.

“This needs to be a respectful conversation and it’s the job of the government in Dublin to shape that conversation,” she said.

    Sinn Féin on Crime:

  • * Increase Garda numbers to 16,000
  • * Recruit 2000 additional civilian staff: €80 million
  • * A new Garda Building Programme prioritising stations for rural Ireland
  • * Increase the manpower at the Criminal Assets' Bureau
  • * Commit to a review to the role of the Special Criminal Court
  • * Introduce a White-Collar Crime Bill to strengthen prosecution powers
  • * Extending whistleblower protections
  • * End the Direct Provision process

“If we look to Britain, and lots of us have reflected on the disorder and the chaos which has arisen because of a lack of planning and a fully informed debate on the issue of Brexit, we shouldn’t sleepwalk into a similar scenario.

“Brexit has accelerated this conversation. It’s reckless not to plan.”

Ms McDonald added: “It is game on for unification and I think the thoughtful thing, the wise thing to do, is to plan from now.”

She said it was not a uniquely Sinn Féin issue.

“The future of the island, the constitutional, political and economic arrangements and welfare on the island, is everybody’s business,” she added.

“Any thoughtful party seeking to be in government, to occupy high office, should recognise that as an objective reality.”

    Sinn Féin on Climate:

  • * No climate tax increases in the absence of viable alternatives
  • * No new licences for offshore fossil fuel drilling, total ban on fracking
  • * State divestment from fossil fuel projects
  • * Collection of domestic waste to return to local authorities
  • * Increase afforestation and protections for hedgerows
  • * Retrofit council, private rented and owner occupier homes: €160 million
  • * Develop transition to electric vehicles

She said a five-year timeline is reasonable to get the “spade work done”.

She added that the call for a referendum by the British Government will only be done when the Irish government is proactively planning for Irish unification.

“We’re not the only people asking those questions – those questions are being asked by individuals and organisations, beyond ourselves.

This isn't a matter of this being a uniquely Sinn Féin issue, this isn't simply a Sinn Féin concern

Ms McDonald added Sinn Féin was ready to be in government.

“People are saying the others have had their chance and now Sinn Féin should have the chance and then of course be judged on the delivery.”

    Sinn Féin on Rural:

  • * Additional suckler cow scheme to increase payment per cow to €200
  • * Increase Sheep Welfare Scheme payment to €20 per ewe
  • * Increase self-employed tax credits to €1,650 for young farmers
  • * Front-load per hectare payments to an upper ceiling of €60,000
  • * Introduce an environmental basic income pilot scheme for small farmers
  • * Greater protection for farmers in dealing with supermarkets
  • * Banning super fishing trawlers with stronger controls

She said the days of majoritarian government were over and that needed to be reflected in more inclusive leaders’ debates.

The party’s priorities include reducing the term of the office of the president from seven years to five years and making the office subject to Freedom of Information requests.

Turning to homelessness, the party’s spokesman on housing Eoin O Broin said the party would agree a date to ending long-term homelessness in conjunction with local authorities and the homeless sector.