Government plan to link pension increases to inflation faces opposition

FG plan would consign people to poverty while claiming to help them, says Willie O’Dea

Kitty Holland interviews eighteen year old homeless woman Nadine Garland currently housed in appalling conditions in a south Dublin city B & B with her one year old son Hunter. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

Fianna Fáil has said it will “completely” oppose an attempt by the Government to link welfare increases to inflation, in an early indication of a potential budget flashpoint.

Speaking at the Fine Gael conference in Wexford, Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty said she intends linking payments such as the pension to the consumer price index (CPI) this year.

Ms Doherty said all the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in her sector are in favour of such a move.

“It’s very much my ambition to introduce it. I’ve a conference in July with all of the NGOs but it very much depends on the support of all of the other political parties. Some of the noises I’m hearing aren’t very positive. So I’ve a body of work today.”

However, Fianna Fáil social protection spokesman Willie O’Dea said he will resist any attempts to introduce this policy in the budget later this year. Fianna Fáil’s acquiescence is needed to pass the budget.

“If she pushes this, we will have to push back. I am completely opposed to it.”

Mr O’Dea said the CPI reflected the price of “Ferraris, yachts, the whole lot” and could not be applied to those at risk of poverty.

He said it would be “effectively maintaining the status quo year to year” and was indicative of Fine Gael’s general approach. The Limerick TD said Fine Gael would be consigning people to poverty while claiming to help them.

How do we tackle climate change?

Meanwhile, new climate change targets will mean 70 per cent of the State’s electricity will be generated from renewable sources, such as offshore wind farms.

In the coming weeks, Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton is expected to publish a plan outlining how we can improve our performance in tackling climate change.

Speaking at the Fine Gael conference in Wexford over the weekend, Mr Bruton said the plan will include a commitment to increase the electricity target to 70 per cent by 2030 from its current level of 55 per cent. This is in line with the position of the all-party Oireachtas committee on climate change. And Mr Bruton said it will be “a very substantial step up in ambition in terms of a switch to renewable. The reason for it of course is that there is no point in switching to electric vehicles unless you have a clean and renewable electric network.

“It will require significant changes. We will have to strengthen our grid. It will mean we will look beyond onshore wind and we will have to prepare for a significant offshore wind capacity in our system.”