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.
"Sinn Féin’s manifesto provides for both scenarios. We will embark on a significant public investment programme while also running a budget surplus."
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.
Some tax cuts and some increases in spending on public services
Significant increase in spending on public services
"We will abolish the USC on the first €30,000 earned, saving workers up to €700 per annum. We will also abolish the LPT while embarking on a significant public services investment programme raised through alternative and progressive taxation."
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.
"Sinn Féin’s policy of removing the first €30000 of all salaries from the USC will put up to €700 back into the pockets of all workers earning less than €100,000."
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.
"Incomes up to €100,000 would pay less tax with us. But we’ll introduce a 5% levy on individual incomes above €140,000, remove tax credits from individual incomes above €140,000, tapered at a rate of 2.5% for every €1,000 above €100,000."
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.
"We would retain the 12.5% rate. But greater transparency is needed and loopholes must be closed to ensure corporations pay what is due. The Apple tax appeal against the European Commission must be dropped and money used for public services."
Housing and Health
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.
"Sinn Féin has long campaigned for the abolition of Local Property Tax, which is an unfair tax on family homes and a tax on debt that takes no consideration of family incomes or ability to pay. "
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.
"Sinn Féin will reduce rents by up to €1,500 a year, via a refundable tax credit, and freeze those rents for three years to help ease the burden on renters who are suffering during the housing crisis."
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.
"Everyone needs a roof over their head. Sinn Féin will deliver 100,000 public homes on public land (60,000 social homes, 30,000 affordable purchase homes and 10,000 affordable rental homes)."
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.
"The overreliance on the private sector to solve people’s housing needs is the reason we are in the midst of housing and homelessness crises in the first place."
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.
"Sinn Féin believes healthcare should be free at the point of use and available to everyone when they need it based on need, not ability to pay. We are committed to an Irish National Health Service funded general taxation."
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.
"We will not set unrealistic targets for the uptake of electric vehicles. We will however accelerate the roll-out of public EV charging infrastructure with an investment of €50m. This is critical to making electric vehicles a viable option for people."
Should carbon taxes be increased?
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.
Increased significantly (reaching €80 per tonne by 2030)
Increased at a more moderate rate
"The carbon tax is regressive - the sole purpose of it is to raise funds. It will not make the state greener or cleaner. We need real investment in public transport and renewable energy to do that."
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.
"An emissions tax would further punish already struggling farming families. With proper support, many farmers can transition into renewable energy. We will support farmers so they can continue to have a livelihood while contributing to EU 2030 climate/energy targets."
Immigration, moral and social issues
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.
"We believe that all states must manage migration. This system must have regard to the labour market, integration, support and resources. The system must also protect and treat people fleeing persecution and war with dignity."
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.
"We are committed to ending the Direct Provision system. We must treat people - many of whom are distressed having fled war torn countries - with dignity and respect, while processing asylum applications in a timely manner."
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.
"Sinn Féin supports the mandate delivered by the Irish public’s emphatic decision - 66.4% to 33.6% to repeal the Eighth Amendment in 2018."
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 placement of all asylum seekers must be mindful of existing public resources available in any small town or village but also protect people fleeing persecution and war, and treat those people with dignity and care."
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.
"All public hospitals should be under full control of the state. Doctors and nurses must be allowed to work free from non-medical influences. Ireland today is a diverse society. More must be done to evolve our education system away from church control."
Political and constitutional issues
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.
"Partition is damaging. The Northern Ireland Assembly does not enjoy fiscal powers and people in the North are suffering from Tory policies. The conversation about Irish Unity must be based on mutual respect and inclusivity for all communities on this island."
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.
"We need to embrace Irish citizens forced to emigrate and allow them to vote in presidential elections. Doing so would also be a signal of inclusion to Irish citizens living in the North, so often ignored by this state."
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.
"Sinn Fein will work for Irish Unity. Everyone is talking about Irish Unity except Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. We need to start planning for a Unity referendum so that we can reap the benefits of a United Ireland. "
The voting age should be lowered to 16
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.
"We need to empower young people to help them shape a more positive Ireland. Lowering the voting age to 16 would ensure that the rights and interests of young people stay firmly on the political agenda."
EU and international affairs
European integration has gone too far
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.
"Sinn Féin is fully committed to the EU. However huge democratic deficits exist within its current structures. It is time to end the Brussels power grab, to rein in the Commission and return powers to the member states."
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.
"We are fully opposed to the further militarisation of the EU and any attempts to create an EU army. Neutrality is the product of a developed and coherent republican position stretching back over 200 years. "
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.
"In Government, we will ban goods from Israel’s illegal colonial settlements in Palestine from entering the Irish market by implementing the Occupied Territories Bill, formally recognise the State of Palestine and assist efforts to find lasting solutions to the conflict."
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Frequenty Asked Questions
What is WhichCandidate?
WhichCandidate is a ‘voting advice application’ that allows voters to compare their own policy views with those of the candidates standing for election.
It aims to inform voters about the policy positions of candidates and to help voters to make a more informed voting decision.
How does it work?
A set of relevant policy issues are selected by the research team in advance of the election. Election candidates are contacted to complete a questionnaire on these issues. Each participating candidate is given a public profile on the website, incorporating their answers to the questionnaire.
Voters who visit the website are asked the same set of questions, and their answers are compared with the answers of the candidates. A customised results page is then presented to each user, containing a ranking of candidates ordered by how closely their answers match.
How is the ranking calculated?
First, we calculate the proximity of a user to a candidate on each question. To give an example, a question might have three answer options: Agree, Neither agree nor disagree, Disagree. Proximity can in this case be either:
1 (if the user and candidate select the same answer)
0.5 (if one selects the middle option and the other selects Agree or Disagree)
0 (if one selects Agree and the other selects Disagree)
We then take the average proximity between the user and candidate across all the questions that the user has answered. If for example a user has a proximity score of 0.5 to a candidate across all questions, the overall match with this candidate is expressed as 50%.
Some issues are more important to me than others. Can this be taken into account?
You first select the issues that are important to you, and you are then presented with questions related to those issues. You will only be matched with candidates on those issues. In addition, if there are any specific questions that you are not interested in, you can simply select 'no opinion' and they will be excluded from calculation.
Some candidates appear to be missing
We endeavoured to contact all declared candidates. Some candidates have declined to share their policy views with us and are not featured on the website. If you would like to see more candidates from your area on the website, please urge them to contact us and complete the survey.
If you are a candidate and were not contacted by us, please let us know.
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WhichCandidate is not associated with any political party or election candidate. It is run by researchers at the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Limerick. It is supported by funding from the Irish Research Council.
Who do I contact?
Any queries or feedback on WhichCandidate can be sent to Rory Costello at the Department of Politics and Public Administration, University of Limerick