Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin has insisted the General Election race is “neck and neck”, despite the first opinion poll of the campaign showing a 12-point lead for his party.
Mr Martin, speaking to reporters after an appearance on RTE’s This Week programme, said he slow to place any real stock in opinion polls, and said there is likely be considerable fluctuation in them until polling day on Saturday February 8.
“Down through the years, I have been very dismissive of national opinion polls. I think national polls have to be treated with a great degree of caution. I believe it is much tighter and I believe the battles in the individual constituencies will determine the outcome of the election. It will be a closely fought election,” he said.
“This poll was in advance of the election campaign so we are just going to keep focused on the campaign, it is early days yet,” he added.
He said he has gotten a “warm reception” and good engagement on the doors during the canvass in week one of the campaign, and he said people generally make up their mind in the final week of the campaign. “So it is all to play for,” he said.
Speaking about his time in office, he has for the second time in three days accepted that his party had reduced “taxation too much and increased public spending too much” when last in office.
However, once the crash took hold, Mr Martin said that the party, under the late Brian Lenihan, had implemented two thirds of an economic recovery plan.
Mr Martin accused Fine Gael of promising spending increases ahead of the election.
Speaking to reporters, Mr Martin said if elected to Government it would seek to “outlaw contracts that force people to retire at 65”.
“If on the one hand the State is saying the pension age should go to 67, then having people for two years in a limbo situation is not sustainable and acceptable,” he added.
He said the party would review moving retirement to 67 on the basis that there needs to be what he called a “level playing pitch”.
He said compulsory retirement at 65 needs to change and he would look for “graduated retirement”.
Mr Martin confirmed Fianna Fáil would launch a savings scheme to help first time buyers. He said: “In our view it will not drive up the prices of houses.”
The party leader said rental prices were impeding people’s ability to save and “rents cannot be allowed continue to climb”.
He said the savings scheme was one part of a broad ranging policy to be launched this week to address a range of issues in the housing sector.
Elsewhere, Offaly TD Barry Cowen has spoken of his brother, Brian’s ongoing recovery from a serious illness last year.
Mr Cowen is making steady progress after he suffered a suspected bled on the brain last July, his brother told a Fianna Fáil election meeting at the weekend.
Barry Cowen thanked members for their well-wishes and prayers for his recovery and also said his brother is keeping a close eye on the constituency.
He said for the first time he is entering into an election without his brother by his side but said he is still able to offer his wisdom and experience.
The former Taoiseach was first elected to the Dáil in 1984 following the death of his father Ber. He retired from politics in 2011 following the financial crash.
Source: Full Feed