Coalition TDs oppose pension cuts


Proposed cuts to pensions in the budget were opposed this morning by members of Fianna Fáil and their Green Party coalition partners.

Green Party deputy leader Mary White said she was raising a “red flag” to Fianna Fáil over the issue, saying pensions should not be cut under any circumstances.

Ms White said the Government should look for alternative methods of raising revenues.

“We should send a strong signal in this budget, whatever happens, that fair is worth fighting for," she said.

“I’m certainly sending a signal that we should be looking for alternative methods of raising revenue. I am desperately trying to think of less painful methods of raising tax in this budget,” the Minister of State with responsibility for equality said.

Ms White said that while the country needed to be in control of its economic sovereignty and the budget needed to be passed, it also needed to be fair and protect the vulnerable.

“Pensioners have worked all their lives. They now have no method of accruing income for themselves. And with the disastrous erosion of their savings, many of their houses in negative equity, I believe they are in a perilous situation,” she said.

Asked whether the Green Party would vote against the budget if it included pension cuts, Ms White said “there was still time” to shape a fair budget.

She said the matter would be discussed at the party’s parliamentary meeting on Wednesday, she told RTE’s Morning Ireland.

Fianna Fáil TD Mary O’Rourke said she was totally against any cuts to the non-contributory pension.

“We cannot touch it. Old people cannot raise money for themselves. Young people can do a nixer,” she said on the same programme.

She said she would have the “airwaves of Ireland exhausted” in the run-up to the budget listening to her talking about the importance of leaving the pension alone. “We have a regard for older people in this country," she said. "Well, we used to, so let’s put our money where our mouth is."

Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh called on Mary White to back up her call for pensions to be protected by

committing to vote against the budget if pension cuts are included in it.

“Minister White’s statement ruling out pension cuts can’t be trusted without a commitment to vote against the budget if pension cuts are included in it. Talk is cheap, only votes count," he said.

Meanwhile, a charity for older people is organising a mass public meeting on November 17th to enable pensioners to tell politicians what they need in the budget and to outline the difficulties living in Ireland as an older person.

“There is a real concern that politicians who are making major decisions as part of the Budget do not fully understand the difficulties which older people face in Ireland, or the supports which they cannot afford to lose as part of any cutbacks,” Age Action chief executive Robin Webster said.

The meeting will take place at the Arlington Hotel in Dublin, at 11am on Wednesday, November 17th. Anyone planning on attending must pre-register with Age Action as places are limited.

Older & Bolder, an alliance of groups that represent and work with older people, said today it was encouraged by the response it has been getting from politicians to its campaign to defend the old age pension.

The group will be making a presentation to the Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection on Wednesday..