The myth of the powerful grey lobby


Sir, – The protest by Irish pensioners against the proposed removal of the medical card will never be forgiven and appears to be the origin of the legend of the powerful grey vote. I don’t recall any similar or equivalent protest before or since. But when William Reville (Science, May 21st) states that “older people are not seen as a sector that aggressively asserts its rights”, this is all too much for Michael Durkan (Letters, May 25th), who writes that “Irish pensioners fought tooth and nail in 2008 to retain their universal right to medical cards”.

That “universal right”, by the way, was not in fact retained.

The means-tested medical card and other rights and benefits listed by Mr Durkan are, apparently, indications of the aggressive assertion of their rights by pensioners, the central point of the letter.

Then comes the issue of the transfer of wealth from the young to the old occasioned by the property boom. What, one asks, is the nature of this wealth formerly possessed by the young and transferred from them to the old?

And has this, somehow, anything to do with the aggressive assertion of their rights by pensioners?

Margaret Lee (Letters, May 26th), readily agreeing with Mr Durkan’s sentiments, says that older people are at the “receiving end of positive discrimination” in each budget. Evidently she does not recall the private-sector pension levy of some years ago, about which it was said at the time in an Irish Times editorial that on no major issue had the government behaved quite so dishonourably as on that issue. Barely a whimper was heard at the time from the grey vote lobby.

Older people aggressively asserting their rights?

As Mr Durkan writes, you could have fooled me. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 14.