First elected in 2007, and re-elected at each general election since then. Michael comes from a farming background and is a former chairperson of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Science.
Party positions on the election issues:
These positions were provided by the party
Taxes and Spending
The government should prioritise putting money aside for future challenges (e.g. Brexit) rather than putting it back into the economy now
The government now takes in more money than it spends. Some argue that this should be set aside to prepare for shocks like Brexit or a sharp reduction in corporation tax revenue. Others argue that the priority should be putting money into the economy through higher public spending or tax cuts.
When there is scope for tax cuts or public spending increases, what should be done?
During the recession, new taxes were introduced and public spending was cut. Some argue that when possible, the government should cut taxes to put money back into people’s pockets. Others argue that the priority should be to increase public spending in areas such as housing and health.
Should taxes on lower earners (below €35,000) be increased or decreased?
Currently, people earning under €16,500 do not pay income tax. People earning over that pay the standard rate of 20%. There is also the Universal Social Charge: those earning under €13,000 are exempt, while those earning up to €20,000 pay up to 2%, rising to 4.5% for earnings over that amount.
Should taxes on middle earners (€35,000-€70,000) be increased or decreased?
The standard rate of income tax is 20%, which applies to all income up €35,300 (for a single person); earnings above that are taxed at 40%. The Universal Social Charge is 4.5% on income between €20,000 and €70,000.
Should corporation taxes be increased or decreased?
Ireland’s corporate tax rate is 12.5%, which is low by international standards. Many large companies pay a much lower rate in practice. This makes us attractive for multinationals, which are a major contributor to the economy; it has also led to accusations of Ireland being a tax haven.
Should the local property tax rates be increased or decreased?
The standard rate of LPT is 0.18% of a property’s market value. This rate can be adjusted up or down by the local authority. The revenue raised is used to fund local services and some of it is redistributed to other local authorities. LPT currently makes up less than 1% of all tax revenue.
A rent freeze should be introduced across the country
Currently, rent increases are limited to 4% in ‘rent pressure zones’. Some argue that there should be a blanket rent freeze, so landlords could not increase rents at all for a period. Others argue that a rent freeze would drive landlords out of the sector and reduce the supply of houses for rent.
Much more resources should be directed to building local authority housing, even if that means cutting back in other areas or raising taxes
Some argue that local authority house building should be increased dramatically, as there are almost 70,000 people on waiting lists. Others favour alternative methods of solving the housing crisis, such as encouraging more private development or providing more supports for people to rent or buy.
The best solution to the housing crisis is to incentivise more building by private developers
To solve the housing crisis, some argue we need to incentivise developers to build more houses (e.g. by reducing taxes on construction or introducing harsher penalties for ‘land hording’). Others argue that the solution should instead focus on building more local authority housing.
There should be free health care for all, even those on higher incomes
Currently, only some people are entitled to a medical card or free GP care. Many people who can afford it choose to take out private health insurance. Some argue that there should be universal health care for most medical treatments, paid with public funds. Others say this would cost too much.
What should the focus be for investment in transport?
Some say we need to reduce our dependence on cars, and invest in sustainable transport instead (e.g. buses, trains, cycling, walking). Others argue that failing to invest in our road network will damage the economy. Currently we spend more on roads than on public transport and cycleways.
Carbon tax applies to fossil fuels, e.g. oil, petrol, diesel, gas. It recently increased from €20 to €26 per tonne of CO2. The Climate Change Advisory Council recommends a rapid increase (€80 per tonne by 2030). Critics say that carbon tax disproportionately impacts those on low incomes.
There should be a tax on greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture
Agriculture is a key sector in the Irish economy. It is also responsible for 33% of Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions. Some have called for a new tax on greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, but opponents say that would be too damaging to the agri-food industry.
Should immigration into Ireland be made more restrictive or less restrictive?
Non-Irish nationals make up 12.7% of the population, most of whom came from the EU. Work permits are issued to people from other countries only with a well-paid job offer in certain occupations. Some say immigration puts pressure on services; while others say it is needed to tackle job shortages.
More resources should be given to improving conditions for asylum seekers
Asylum seekers are housed in Direct Provision centres. Some argue that conditions are poor and have a negative effect on the physical and mental health of residents. Others disagree and argue that improving conditions would cost too much and could attract more asylum seekers to Ireland.
The liberalisation of abortion in Ireland has gone too far
The legislation introduced after the 2018 referendum allows for terminations for any reason up to 12 weeks in a pregnancy. Terminations are only permitted after this date (and before the foetus becomes viable) if there is a serious risk to the health of the pregnant woman.
Small towns and villages should not be forced to accommodate asylum seekers
There are approximately 6,000 asylum seekers living in Ireland. Many are accommodated in or near small towns and villages, where it is easier to find private premises to use as Direct Provision centres. In some cases locals have opposed this on the grounds that their town might be overwhelmed.
The Church has too much control over Irish schools and hospitals
The Catholic Church runs a number of private hospitals. Most primary schools & many secondary schools are under the patronage of the Church. Some say the Church provides invaluable services in health and education, while others say that a Catholic ethos is being imposed against people’s wishes.
The reunification of Ireland would create more problems than it would solve
Some people are opposed to the division of Ireland and believe that reunification should happen as soon as possible. Others disagree on the grounds that Unionists in Northern Ireland do not want it, or because they believe it would be too expensive for the Irish government.
Irish citizens living abroad (including Northern Ireland) should have a vote in Presidential elections
A referendum on this has been proposed. Some argue that political participation should be a core aspect of citizenship, regardless of where you live. Others say that there are too many citizens living abroad, and that they may be out of touch with what is going on in Ireland.
A referendum on Irish unity should be held during the lifetime of the next government
The Good Friday Agreement allows for a referendum in Northern Ireland & the Republic on a united Ireland, if there is evidence that unification is desired by a majority. Some say that, in light of Brexit, a border poll should be held soon. Others believe this would be premature and divisive.
18 is the most common minimum voting age internationally, but some countries have reduced it to 16. Proponents argue that young people should have a say as it affects their future, while opponents argue that many 16-year-olds lack the maturity to vote responsibly.
Some people argue that the EU interferes too much in the affairs of member states, and powers should be returned to the national level. Others argue that further integration is necessary to tackle shared challenges and for economic stability.
Ireland should cooperate with other EU member states on defence
Ireland has recently joined the PESCO framework, which seeks to increase defence cooperation between EU states. It commits members to work together on military planning & increase defence spending. It does not create an EU army, but some oppose it because they see it as a step in that direction.
Ireland should boycott Israeli goods produced in the occupied territories
A proposed law would make it an offence to import or sell goods originating in an occupied territory. Proponents say this will show solidarity with Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. Critics say it discriminates unfairly against Israel, and could undermine important links with the US.