O’Dea warns FF of election backlash without budget pension rise

Fianna Fáil social protection spokesman believes FG intends to allocate greater resources to younger families

A panel discussuon hosted by PwC Ireland on Ireland's pending Budget 2020. Video: PWC

Fianna Fáil TD Willie O'Dea has privately told senior party figures they are risking a general election backlash from older voters if they do not insist on an increase in the old age pension in the budget.

Mr O'Dea, the Fianna Fáil social protection spokesman, believes Fine Gael intends to allocate greater resources to younger families rather than pensioners in preparation for a family-friendly general election manifesto from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Such is the level of internal protest being raised by Mr O'Dea, one party source jokingly said it was as if the Limerick City TD was "on steroids".

It was also suggested Mr O’Dea had been stung by jibes from other Opposition TDs on an issue with which he has personally associated himself in recent years.


Mr O'Dea was taunted during Dáil questions to Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty earlier this week.

Mick Barry, the Socialist Party TD for Cork North Central, accused Ms Doherty of preparing to "freeze" pensions, adding: "Fianna Fáil's fingerprints are all over this one too. I can safely say that a large majority of Fianna Fáil supporters will not support the idea of freezing basic pension rates in this budget."

He said he would ask Mr O’Dea direct Dáil questions if he could.

Ms Doherty responded by saying it was her job during every budget to make sure that whatever funds she received “are targeted at those who need them most”.

Next election

The October 8th budget is the last before the next election, and Mr O’Dea believes Fianna Fáil, rather than Fine Gael, would face a greater backlash from older voters if pensions are not increased.

Recent budgets as part of the confidence and supply agreement between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have seen €5 increases in pension and other weekly welfare rates.

The Irish Times last week reported that pensioners will not receive an increase to their weekly payments but will instead get other smaller welfare increases under plans being considered for the budget.

Government sources said pensioners were likely to see an increase in other allowances such as the home benefits package, which includes support for paying gas and electricity bills.