Nominations for general election to close today


Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore with Vincent Browne at TV last night for the first televised debate of the election. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins

Nominations for the 2011 General Election are to close at 12pm today.

The first major TV debate of the campaign – between Micheál Martin and Eamon Gilmore last night – saw sharp exchanges on budgetary policy, the EU-IMF bailout and the introduction of the bank guarantee.

During the debate, Mr Martin repeatedly accused Mr Gilmore of “chopping and changing” his position over the past three months on the target date for the reduction in the budget deficit and on tax policy.

“You keep changing in response to the focus groups,” Mr Martin said.

Mr Gilmore said it was the Fianna Fáil Government which had “chopped and changed” its policy and its targets over the past two years. “We have taken decisions,” said Mr Martin. “You have taken the wrong decisions,” replied Mr Gilmore.

The two men also clashed on the EU-IMF bailout, with Mr Gilmore saying it would have to be renegotiated and Mr Martin insisting there could be no unilateral renegotiation.

On the issue of the bank guarantee, the Labour leader said it was the worst decision taken by an Irish government since independence. Mr Martin responded by accusing him of “bluffing and conning”, saying there would have been immediate and catastrophic results if the guarantee had not been introduced.

Earlier Mr Kenny also rejected the Labour Party’s approach to renegotiating the EU-IMF bailout deal.

“This is a case of understanding how negotiations and diplomacy actually work in the European context and it is about building those relationships, which I’ve been working on for a few years in terms of my participation within the European People’s Party,” said Mr Kenny.

The Fine Gael leader declined to take part in the TV3 debate and instead addressed a “town hall style meeting” in Carrick-on-Shannon.

Both Mr Martin and Mr Gilmore expressed satisfaction with their performance during the debate. Three more debates are planned during the election and Mr Kenny is expected to take part in them.

The public finances and cutting emigration will be highlighted by political parties during today’s  campaign.

Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin will launch the party’s tourism strategy in Ballina, Co Mayo.

Labour’s Eamon Gilmore will canvass with candidates in Meath East and Meath West after the party launches its plan for literacy.

Fine Gael will outline how it will create 45,000 work experience, training and internship opportunities to stem emigration in its document, Keeping Young Talent at Home . Education spokesman Fergus O’Dowd and communications and energy spokesman Leo Varadkar will reveal the proposals at the election headquarters on Leeson Street in Dublin.

Meanwhile, Green Party leader John Gormley, finance spokesman Dan Boyle and former energy minister Eamon Ryan held a breakfast briefing on managing the public finances this morning in Dublin. They said it would, in Government, ensure that there will be no increases in income tax or cuts to social welfare rates in the next three years.

Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh will launch proposals for community safety and combating crime outside the Department of Justice on St Stephen’s Green.

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