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Parties lay out policies for voters with the focus on pay and jobs

Taoiseach Enda Kenny on a visit to family-owned, Irish manufacturing company Shay Murtagh Precast in Mullingar as he goes on the General Election campaign trail. Picture by Niall Carson, Press Association
Michael McHugh and Ed Carty, Press Association

ABOLISHING the non-jury Special Criminal Court would not be a make-or-break issue for Sinn Féin entering coalition government.

As the policy dominated debate for a second day amid two gangland murders in three days, party president Gerry Adams insisted he was more interested in reversing water charges and property tax.

"Is it a red line issue for us in negotiating a programme for government? The red line issues for us are getting rid of the property tax, getting rid of water charges and restoring some decency and fairness and equality into the lives of citizens," he said.

Sinn Féin's manifesto also included plans to reopen shut Garda stations, hire 3,000 gardai and 6,600 front-line health staff and build 100,000 social and affordable homes while writing new laws to allow the Central Bank to cap mortgage interest rates

On tax the party vowed to abolish the USC levy for workers earning less than €19,572 and impose another 7 per cent of tax on an individual's earnings of €100,000 or more.

Elsewhere, Mr Adams vowed to only take the average industrial wage if he was taoiseach and the party also has plans to reduce TDs' salaries and the pay of special advisers to €75,000.

They also reiterated plans to cut the pensions for former taoisigh, ministers and TDs.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny promised to "make work pay" as he outlined plans to scrap the Universal Social Charge (USC) for working families and increase the minimum wage.

Fine Gael would introduce an extra subsidy to ensure parents working 15 hours or more per week earned at least €11.75 an hour while at the same time targeting welfare traps in housing, healthcare and childcare.

"Fine Gael believes that a job is the best route out of poverty and that work should pay," Mr Kenny said.

The party says it plans to increase the minimum wage to €10.50 during the next government term and amend employers' pay-related social insurance to help small businesses mitigate the changes to the minimum wage.

Labour also focused on people's pay packets with a commitment from Tanaiste Joan Burton to enforce a living wage of €11.30 in today's money for all workers.

"I want to see a social recovery as well as an economic recovery," Ms Burton said.

Labour said it would not permit low pay, insecure hours or enforced bogus self-employment to be imposed on the vulnerable, the low paid and those with little social protection.

Business minister Ged Nash said: "We will address abuses of zero-hour and low-hour contracts, we will legislate to prohibit the casualisation of workers and we will safeguard the rights of workers whose jobs are swallowed up in insolvencies."

From the opposition Fianna Fáil detailed their plans to spend on health with a promise of an additional €1.3 billion of investment in the sector.

An additional 500 consultants would be recruited over five years along with 4,000 nurses and 40 dentists and measures would be taken to ensure patients are not waiting unreasonable periods for scheduled treatment, health spokesman Billy Kelleher said.

Two million extra home help hours would be provided as well as 3,500 extra home care packages, while children with disabilities whose families receive a care allowance would be entitled to a medical card, Fianna Fáil said.

Prescription charges would be abolished and the threshold at which drugs are paid for reduced to €100.

Mr Kelleher said: "Too many unrealistic commitments were made by Fine Gael and Labour in 2011, leading to too many promises being broken over the past five years, eroding public confidence and trust in politics.

"We are not going down that road. Instead we will make solid commitments to improve services where need is greatest."

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