The economy is dominating election campaigning again today, with Fine Gael pledging to shut down Anglo and Fianna Fáil accusing the Opposition of trying to mislead voters.
At an event in Dublin, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin accused Opposition parties of attempting to “deliberately mislead” voters about what changes to the IMF-EU bailout deal can be achieved.
Mr Martin said Ireland had to engage in a “respectful way” with colleagues in Europe. He said changing the terms of the deal required building consensus rather than causing conflict.
Fine Gael has pledged to shut down Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide building society by the end of the year and to stop future asset transfers to the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) from the other banks.
Publishing its banking policy today, the party also pledges to increase mortgage interest relief for those in negative equity to help the save up to €166 a month.
It said the banking plan would bring the sector “back from the brink” and stimulate economic recovery.
Finance spokesman Michael Noonan said the party’s aim in government would be to achieve a “well-regulated, competitive, profitable, and privately-owned banking system”.
The Labour Party is unveiling its green jobs strategy later today, while Sinn Féin will outline its plans for deficit reduction this afternoon.
Meanwhile, the latest Irish Times/ Ipsos MRBI poll shows a Fine Gael-Labour coalition is the most favoured outcome of the election. The poll reveals an almost equal three-way split between the main party leaders as the preferred choice for taoiseach.
Asked which of a number of coalition options they would like to see emerge after the election, 34 per cent opted for Fine Gael and Labour, 11 per cent favoured Fine Gael and Independents while 9 per cent wanted Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.
Support for a coalition involving Labour, Sinn Féin and left-leaning parties and Independents came in at 12 per cent. Fianna Fáil and Labour attracted 8 per cent support.
Asked which of the coalition options they believed was likely to form the next government 41 per cent opted for Fine Gael and Labour, far ahead of any of the others.
Only 5 per cent of voters thought a Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael coalition likely; 4 per cent went for Fine Gael and Independents; and 3 per cent went for Labour, Sinn Féin and left-wing Independents.
Asked who they would prefer to see as taoiseach after the election Eamon Gilmore attracted 26 per cent support, followed by Enda Kenny on 24 per cent and Micheál Martin on 23 per cent.
Mr Gilmore has dropped 17 per cent since the last Irish Times poll six weeks ago when voters were asked whether they would prefer to see him or Enda Kenny head an alternative government. Mr Kenny is down 4 per cent since that poll. Among voters who say they will not change their minds by election day, Mr Kenny leads with 32 per cent, followed by Mr Gilmore on 30 per cent and Mr Martin on 21 per cent.
The poll was taken on Monday and Tuesday of this week among a representative sample of 1,000 voters aged 18 and over, in face-to-face interviews at 100 sampling points in all 43 constituencies. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 per cent.
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Staff at Permanent TSB are being informed today about the details of planned job cuts at the country’s largest mortgage lender.
The loss-making bank, which also announced a 1 per cent increase in its standard variable mortgage rate today, is seeking to reduce its headcount by about 280 and will offer redeployment opportunities to 100 other staff in response to a shrinking banking market and narrower interest margins on loans.
The job cuts amount to about a fifth of the company’s staff.
The company is seeking the redundancies on a voluntary basis at the head office in Dublin and across the lender’s 92 branches.
Permanent TSB said no branches will close as a direct result of this programme.
Dave Guinane, chief executive of the lender, said that the bank would seek the redundancies as part of a plan to “secure the future” of the company.
“We have set out a roadmap for the recovery of the bank, and while that impacts on both customers and staff, it is key to the ultimate recovery and success of the bank,” he said. “We’re entering a new period for banking in Ireland and we have to ensure that Permanent TSB bank is correctly sized and has the correct margins for the market conditions we are operating in at present.”
The company, which employs 1,850 people, has reduced its workforce by about 400 over the past two years through smaller redundancy programmes and by not replacing departing staff.
The Unite trade union said it was a “dark day” for staff, and criticised previous senior management for the situation.
Consultancy firm Accenture carried out a review of Permanent TSB revenue and costs last year.
The lender had planned to make an announcement once a decision had been made on the sale of rival EBS, of which Permanent TSB is one of two final bidders. The company decided to bring forward the redundancy announcement due to the delay in the Government’s sale of EBS.
Similar-sized reductions in staff numbers at the main banks, Bank of Ireland and AIB, would lead to a total of about 8,000 job losses across the two institutions.
Larry Broderick, general secretary of the Irish Bank Officials’ Association, said that almost 7,000 jobs had been lost at the banks since the autumn of 2008 and at least 2,000 more would be cut “in the near future”.