Proposals from IMF 'not part' of bailout deal
TÁNAISTE EAMON Gilmore has played down suggestions from the International Monetary Fund about cuts in child benefit and medical cards for the over-70s.
He told the Dáil yesterday the IMF’s commentary on means-testing for child-benefit payment and cuts in medical cards for the over-70s, was an outline of “medium to long-term recommendations to the Government”.
They were not specifically made in the context of next year’s budget or the bailout programme, he said “It is not something the Government has to follow and it is not part of the programme,” he added. But he declined to be drawn on whether such cuts would be under consideration.
Mr Gilmore was responding to Sinn Féin health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, who urged the Tánaiste to firmly rule out any attempts to further curtail entitlements to medical cards and to rule out consideration of an attack on child benefit in the budget.
Mr Gilmore said the quarterly review of the bailout programme by the troika including the IMF, European Central Bank and European Commission was different from the IMF’s review, which operated on a separate basis. The troika’s review every three months “focuses on short-term issues and our adherence to the agreed commitments in the programme.”
The IMF, in its separate review announced on Wednesday, “outlined medium- to long-term recommendations to the Government”.
The budget “is something the Government has yet to address and at this point in the year it is not appropriate to speculate about what may be in it”.
Mr Ó Caoláin accused the Tánaiste of failing to rule out such cuts.
Mr Gilmore insisted, however, “we will deal with the issues relating to the budget when we come to budget time”. He said the recommendations were for the long term. The IMF “does this for every country. It is a periodic thing”.
The Tánaiste also refused to be drawn when Mr Ó Caoláin asked him when he had heard about the resignation of HSE chief executive Cathal Magee. Mr Ó Caoláin had referred to the apparent rift between Minister for Health James Reilly and Minister of State for Health Róisín Shortall, who said she had heard of Mr Magee’s resignation in the media.
The Cavan-Monaghan TD had asked what Mr Gilmore believed the relationship to be between the Minister for Health and his Minister of State. “When are you and the Labour Party going to draw the line?” he asked. Or was it a question of “Reilly’s way rather than Labour’s way”?
The Tánaiste would not be drawn on the issue but later told reporters at a press conference he first heard the report of Mr Magee’s resignation on the radio, which he described as “regrettable”.
Mr Ó Caoláin later said it was an “insult” to the House that Mr Gilmore refused to answer the question in the Dáil.
Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins said the Dáil should not rise with “the warnings and threats by the IMF against the elderly and the unemployed ringing in our ears”.
He said there should be an opportunity for statements or the Tánaiste “should state that there will not be these attacks on the most vulnerable in our society”.
Mr Gilmore retorted that there would not be attacks on the most vulnerable people in society, “and Deputy Higgins or anybody else should not be giving rise to ungrounded fears among people”