‘We can’t afford to live in this country, and now we also can’t afford to die’

Pensioners incensed at ‘mean spirited’ cuts and increase of prescription charges

Maire Ni Mhaille with her personal alarm which connects to her phone at her home in Tír an Fhia in Connemara. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

Maire Ni Mhaille with her personal alarm which connects to her phone at her home in Tír an Fhia in Connemara. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

Thu, Oct 17, 2013, 01:00

Máire Ní Mháille had an inkling the State’s senior citizenry would be targeted in this week’s budget, and wasn’t particularly pleased to find that her instinct was right.

The 72-year-old resident of Tír an Fhia in south Connemara, who works with senior citizens in a daycare centre in Ceantar na n-Oileán, was particularly incensed at the decision to cut the monthly telephone allowance for older people, increase prescription charges and abolish the €850 bereavement grant.

“When you are balancing a pension, these small amounts can be very big,” she notes. “So we can’t afford to live in this country, and now we also can’t afford to die. No one will be able to pay to bury us anymore.”

Ms Ní Mháille relies on having a landline for her personal alarm, which she has had for over a year.

Long before she needed it, she promoted the value of the alarms or “emergency pendants” among the more vulnerable living in her community.

“I would hate to think this phone allowance cut would deter people from getting these alarms now,”she says, explaining that the grant does not cover the running costs and the service of the device.

A lifeline
“It is a lifeline, no matter what your situation is, as no one can look after anyone requiring care for 24 hours,” she says.

“As for the increase in prescription charges, wasn’t Dr James Reilly the Minister who promised to do away with these some time ago?

“If you are on 10 to 12 tablets a day, that’s a significant rise, on top of all the other charges we have facing us like water rates, property tax, heating, food, transport to hospital and back,” she says.

“Not going down very well,” was how Peigí Uí Chéidigh summarised the reaction to the budget measures among day care visitors at south Connemara’s Tearmann Éanna day care centre, which serves of senior citizens from Leitir Mealáin to Carna.

‘Very angry’
Michael Faherty (84), who lives in Annaghdown near the shores of the Corrib on the other side of the county, professed to being a “very angry” lifelong supporter of the Labour Party.

“The amounts might sound small, but when you add them up it makes a substantial difference between getting through the month on the pension and not,” he said.

Mr Faherty volunteers to work two days a week with the Irish Wheelchair Association and is also involved with the GAA. “We don’t have the men for a senior team anymore in Annaghdown, and this cut to jobseekers’ allowance will drive more of them to the boat. What sort of message is the Labour Party trying to give out at all?”

Annaghdown general practitioner Dr Mary Rogan said the measures would affect many of her patients. “Hitting this section of the population which has done so much is just mean-spirited.”