Gilmore warns about speculating


Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore today warned Ministers about needlessly worrying older people as the Government starts to consider its options ahead of the December budget.

“We will have our budget in December and we won’t be making budget decisions until close to then,” the Tánaiste said in Belfast. “I think that speculation about what may or may not be in the budget between now and then is unhelpful. I think that we need to be careful that we are giving undue cause for worry to people who are worried about speculation that they are seeing.”

Meanwhile, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has said she remains “nonplussed” by comments by Minister of State for Finance Brian Hayes about “well off” pensioners.

She said no decision had been made in relation to any element of the budget, but “every heading” in her Department and others would have to be examined.

“In relation to Minister Hayes’ comments about older people doing very well, I think the principle has to be that people who are doing very well whatever their age should of course be making a contribution. I’m slightly nonplussed at Minister Hayes’ concentration on older people,” she said.

“I’m quite sure that nobody in this society wants to suggest that our older people in their retirement should be affected by poverty,” she said.

She was speaking to reporters at Leinster House this afternoon, where she presented an actuarial review of the social insurance fund which had a provisional deficit of €1.5 billion last year.

“I want to offer an assurance to older people who may be concerned that every member of the Government values the contribution that the social insurance fund and our scheme of contributory and non-contributory pensions for older people make to the comfort and well-being of our older people in their retirement.”

Actuarial reviews of the social insurance fund are undertaken every five years.

Mr Hayes, in an interview with The Irish Times on Saturday, had said the political system needed to overcome its reluctance to impose any cutbacks on older people. He pointed out that many were comparatively well off and did not have mortgages.

Fine Gael colleagues said privately they were supportive of Mr Hayes’s view, but that it was a difficult proposition to sell politically.

“I’d say a lot of people would agree with him on a factual basis,” said a Fine Gael ministerial colleague. “But I don’t think there is much political appetite to cut pensions or free travel or anything like that.”

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