Older people ‘must fight’ for reversal of budget cuts

Protest hears pensioners ‘must resist attempts to drive wedge between older and younger people’

About 2,000 older people from across the State protested in pouring rain in Dublin city centre today against a range of cuts announced in last week’s budget which were described as “mean”, “cruel” and “unjust”.

Tue, Oct 22, 2013, 17:53

About 2,000 older people from across the State protested in pouring rain in Dublin city centre today against a range of cuts announced in last week’s budget which were described as “mean”, “cruel” and “unjust”.

Organisers promised it would be the “first of as many protests as it takes” to force the Government to reverse such cuts as the abolition of the telephone allowance and bereavement grant, the withdrawal of medical cards from 35,000 people over 70, the reduction in the tax allowance on health insurance, the increase in Dirt tax and the increase in the pension levy.

Placards bore such slogans as: “Michael Noonan, Wanted for Robbery”; “Kenny, Noonan, Bruton: Three Wise Men? Me Arse”, and, “OAPs: Gas Us. It’s quicker and cheaper”.

Robin Webster, chief executive of Age Action Ireland, told the crowd: “We must resist the Government’s attempts to drive a wedge between older and younger people. We have great intergenerational solidarity and we must fight to keep that.”

He said the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, had promised when elected to protect the vulnerable.

“Well, how is the abolition of the phone allowance protecting elderly, isolated people? How is the abolition of the bereavement grant protecting an elderly woman dealing with the grief of losing her spouse or partner?”

Mairead Hayes, chief executive of the Senior Citizens Parliament, described the turnout as “magnificent” and urged those there not to lose heart, promising the fight would continue.

Among those attending was Mick Ryan (75), who had travelled from Urlingford, Co Kilkenny. He said he had walked “a mile and a half” to get a bus at 8am to Kilkenny city from where he got the 10.30am bus to Dublin. “First this Government took €10 off my pension, then they cut the fuel allowance, then they increased the prescription charges. Now all these cuts. The sooner we can get shot of them, the better.”

Pensioner Kay Stack, who left Tralee, Co Kerry at 8am, said she was particularly angry about the abolition of the phone allowance, saying she had to have a phone as she lived in an isolated area on her own and her children had all emigrated.

“This Government forces my children to leave because there are no jobs here. They’re in London and New York, and now they [the Government] are taking away my only means of communicating with them. I feel devastated.”

Richard Behal (70), from Killarney, Co Kerry, said the Government had turned its back on the founding principles of the Irish Republic, “which promised to cherish all of the children of this State”.