Ageing and active flex political muscle ahead of general election

Earn Our Vote campaign to deliver positive press on politicians who back elderly rights

Candidates who agree to advocate for the alliance’s agenda will be profiled on websites of the campaign groups

Candidates who agree to advocate for the alliance’s agenda will be profiled on websites of the campaign groups

 

The next government needs a cabinet minister for older people to deal with problems posed by an ageing population, advocacy groups have said.

Launching the Earn Our Vote campaign on Monday, representatives from elderly rights charities including Alone and Age Action Ireland promised to publicise candidates and parties which pledge to implement three specific policy demands should they enter into government.

The main requests are: parties support older people to remain healthy and engaged in their communities for longer; to increase the State pension and reverse cuts of recent years; and to create a new ministry specifically for over-65s, a demographic which is set to grow from 500,000 to nearly 1.5 million within 30 years.

Candidates who agree to advocate for the alliance’s agenda will be profiled on websites of the campaign groups. And they will receive positive publicity through social media and press, according to Justin Moran of Age Action Ireland.

“We’re not going to be urging people to vote for any particular political party or candidate, but if a candidate or political party out there says ‘I’m going to endorse this campaign’ then we’re going to let the people we represent know about them,” he said.

“If we are serious about dealing with the changes that are coming to Irish society as our population ages . . . there’s going to be a minister for older people at a cabinet level in this country. The sooner it happens the better,” he added.

Contentious portfolio

Referring to Minister of State Kathleen Lynch’s controversial portfolio adjustment in 2014, Peter Kavanagh of Active Retirement Ireland said: “We’ve seen a Minister lose her title of older people in a reshuffle and then insist that she’s still the Minister for older people but within the Department of Health.

“It’s strange for us to think that once you turn 65 you’re all of a sudden the Department of Health’s problem and you add nothing else to Ireland as a citizen.”

A specific minister is needed to comprehensively implement all facets of the National Positive Ageing Strategy across departments, they said.

Members of the group indicated that measures introduced in the last Government budget such as a €3 weekly increase to the State pension was a first positive step to addressing the heat or eat predicament facing older people who have been severely affected by recessionary cuts.

They demanded that all parties take a progressive stance towards adequately reimbursing older people. This, they argue, should happen in light of the abolition of telephone allowances and bereavement grants and the imposition of additional charges such as the household tax, Universal Social Charge and domestic water bills over recent years.

“One of the things we’ve seen in recent times is older people being thrown sops or being seen as an afterthought . . . And I think that’s how older people have been seen over the last while – just an afterthought, not really looked after,” said Mr Kavanagh.