Kenny rejects Opposition budget criticism in heated Dail exchanges

Criticism of treatment of young and elderly

Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Thu, Oct 17, 2013, 01:01

Taoiseach Enda Kenny rounded on Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin when defending the budget amid heated exchanges.

“There is no change in the net income of pensioners as a result of this budget, unlike what Fianna Fáil did when it cut the widow’s pension, blind pension and invalidity pension by over €8 a week in budget 2010 for people under 65 years,” said Mr Kenny. He accused Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin of engaging in “opportunistic blather”.

Mr Martin had claimed the budget had summed up everything Mr Kenny had said in opposition about what older people did not want from a government. It included the unacceptable abolition of the telephone allowance, the definite withdrawal of 35,000 medical cards from people over 70 “and the wider witch hunt” of another approximately 100,000 medical cards to be taken from people.

“It has already started,” said Mr Martin. “The letters withdrawing medical cards from people are being issued so savings can take effect from January.”

Mr Kenny insisted the budget had extended the principle of previous budgets of protecting the elderly.

“For example, the State pensions, carers’ schemes, free travel and free television licences have not been touched.”

Sinn Féin finance spokeswoman Mary Lou McDonald said it was not just older citizens who were targeted. Young people had also taken a hit and received a clear message from the Government.

“Since the Taoiseach took office in 2011, some 18,000 fewer young people are working in the economy,” she said. “Approximately 1,700 people emigrate from the State every week, a shocking statistic, with the majority of the young and educated leaving because they have no prospect of finding decent work here.”

Ms McDonald accused the Government of introducing “half-baked Mickey Mouse schemes” to massage the Live Register.

Mr Kenny replied: “How dare she insult their intelligence and motivation? How dare she insult their right to go and have a job? How dare she, with her Sinn Féin antics, want to confine our young people to . . . the dole queues ?”

Independent TD Stephen Donnelly said he had a problem with the targeting people under 26, just as he would if the Government had targeted women, people of colour or a particular religion. “This is an issue of human rights.”