On the eve of the 2016 General Election, we analyse how Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Labour and Sinn Féin intend on tackling Ireland's energy, broadband and mortgages issues.
Election 2016 is here at last!
Rumours of an unprecedented Fine Gael-Fianna Fail coalition, a creaking RTÉ studio floor and fierce debate over which party will leave you with most money in your pocket have been some of the defining characteristics of the last three weeks of campaigning.
Amidst the deafening din of promises and accusations, it hasn’t been very easy to get a good grasp of where each of the main parties stands on the issues that matter most.
Never before has Harry S. Truman’s “if you can’t convince them, confuse them” quote seemed more relevant!
Different things will matter to different voters, but we have gone through the manifestos of what are widely expected to be the four biggest parties in the 32nd Dáil and shone a light on each party’s plans for the topics that we cover here at bonkers.ie.
Here’s a straightforward synopsis of what Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Labour have to say about energy, broadband and mortgages.
Enda’s party is keen to take a look at the level of competition in the Irish energy market. In its manifesto, the party pledges to ask the Commission for Energy Regulation to examine the market and present recommendations on how to increase competition to the Government before the year is out.
Guarantees are a rarity in political party manifestos. However, a guarantee of delivery of “next-generation broadband” to each and every household and business in Ireland is something Fine Gael makes in its manifesto. The National Broadband Plan is how the party intends to ensure that “no town, village or parish will be left behind”. Amidst continued stuttering progress of the NBP, this is a bold statement!
Fine Gael also highlights its support for the end of roaming fees in its manifesto.
Fine Gael places an eye-catching emphasis on the importance of switching in the mortgages market.
The party promises to create a “standardised and dedicated” switching form and to establish a code of conduct which will encourage mortgage holders to switch to the most competitive banks in the marketplace.
Fine Gael also mentions that it’d like to see standard variable rates fall over the coming years.
Other: Consumer Rights
A new Consumer Rights Bill will be introduced if Fine Gael remains in Government which, according to the party’s manifesto, will see the introduction of a ban on expiry dates for gift cards as well as refunds for consumers who receive “substandard service”.
Fianna Fáil intends on reforming the Commission for Energy Regulation if it gets into power as a result of tomorrow’s election. This is with a view to reducing prices for families and businesses, which the party believes are currently too high.
There’s also an emphasis on the importance of embracing community energy projects and on researching Ireland’s wind energy production.
Micheál and co. aren’t happy with how Fine Gael and Labour have handled Ireland’s broadband issues. They pledge to roll-out 1 Gbps fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) broadband to “all premises” through collaboration with commercial providers and by pledging an additional €75m of State funds to the plan.
Fianna Fáil is critical of the Central Bank’s mortgage lending rules for first-time buyers, claiming that it excludes a large number of potential buyers from the market.
To address this, the party is keen to introduce a savings scheme which would see individuals get a 25% “top-up”(to a maximum of €5,000) on their special deposit savings account, as they save for their first home.
There’s a pledge to help existing mortgage holders in Fianna Fáil’s manifesto too. The party wants to empower the Central Bank to step in and “force” banks to lower variable interest rates, which the party sees as excessive.
The party also plans on developing a Credit Union mortgage model to increase competition in the market.
Fianna Fáil wants to make saving money more appealing for consumers and is offering to cut DIRT (that’s the tax on interest earned on savings) by 3%.
Labour places a big emphasis on the importance of increasing switching in the energy market in Ireland. The party promises to remove barriers which impede customers from changing suppliers and pledges to help educate customers on the significant benefits of doing so.
In addition to this, the party offers to roll-out an ‘Affordable Energy Strategy’ which will allow 225,000 homes to access grant-aided support in improving energy efficiency and reducing their bills in the process.
The party’s manifesto highlights some of its achievements in increasing broadband access around the country and re-affirms its commitment to providing every household and business with high-speed broadband by 2020, under the National Broadband Plan.
There’s also a large emphasis on schools’ access to adequate internet connections in Labour’s manifesto, with a promise to equip every primary school with broadband by 2020.
In its manifesto, Labour highlights the importance of the Central Bank’s mortgage lending rules in preventing the market from “overheating”, but also admits that they “make it hard for young families to get on the property ladder”.
To tackle this challenge, the party is pledging to introduce a ‘Save to Buy’ scheme, which will provide €1 for every €4 that an aspiring first-time buyer saves for a deposit, up to a maximum of €1,200 every year over five years.
Sinn Féin says that it will “strive” to provide all households and businesses with broadband speeds of 100 Mbps and that it will oversee the replacement of copper with fibre optic cables across the country.
The party also wants to increase mobile phone coverage in rural areas.
In its manifesto, Sinn Féin pledges to empower the Central Bank to set caps on interest rates that banks can charge to mortgage customers and to force the publishing of data on how rates in Ireland compare to other European countries.
The party also promises to review the Central Bank’s mortgage lending rules to ensure that they aren’t making housing unaffordable for too many people.
There’s just one more sleep until voting day and we hope that this helps you get an understanding of what Ireland’s leading parties intend to do to tackle the nation’s energy, broadband and mortgage issues.
Whatever happens at the polls tomorrow, we are hopeful of being in the hands of a Government that understands the importance of consumer rights and competitive prices for essential services such as gas, electricity, internet and housing.