O'Rourke warns against pension cuts


FORMER MINISTER Mary O’Rourke warned Fianna Fáil would become a “fringe” grouping if the non-contributory old age pension was cut in the budget at last night’s meeting of the parliamentary party.

The Longford-Westmeath TD’s contribution was prompted by a presentation from Taoiseach Brian Cowen on the four-year budgetary plan.

Mr Cowen reportedly said all areas, including those which had not been looked at before, would be examined for possible cuts, without committing to reducing income in any particular sector.

“Mary O’Rourke said we would become a fringe group. To paraphrase her, she said that these pensioners are people in the twilight of their lives who built up the country. It was good stuff, and I think it struck resonance with the top table,” one deputy, who did not want to be named, said.

A number of those present confirmed Mrs O’Rourke delivered an impassioned warning that Fianna Fáil support would sink below the low position, reflected in opinion polls, if old-age pensioners were affected by the upcoming budget.

Another deputy, who also did not wish to be identified, said Mr Cowen told TDs and Senators all sectors of society would be scrutinised for their potential to achieve budgetary cutbacks.

“He wasn’t saying that everybody was going to lose some income but he said that nobody was going to be exempt from very close examination. He wasn’t excluding any group at all and it was that that prompted Mary O’Rourke to say what she said and everybody else came in behind her,” the deputy said.

A number of those present confirmed Mrs O’Rourke’s position was supported by former minister Michael Woods of Dublin North East, Dublin North West TD Noel Ahern, Dublin North TD Michael Kennedy, Chris Andrews of Dublin South East, Limerick West TD Niall Collins, Galway East TD Noel Treacy, Johnny Brady of Meath West and Donegal Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill. Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan also addressed the meeting.