Oliver Callan: Do not begrudge pensioners their budget day fiver

They endured a 65% tax rate and entertainment from Big Tom and Twink

Young voters backing the Remain vote in Brexit reacted furiously when the older generation swung the result in favour of Leave.

The old toffs were behaving just like the old lady at the end of Titanic who drops the coveted necklace into the sea, after wasting three hours of everyone's valuable time and resources. They should have seen it coming, since the old bag had also let a handsome young immigrant freeze to death in the Atlantic. Definitely a Leave voter.

There was similar resentment of pensioners in this week's budget. Texters to radio stations complained about the €5 bonus for a group who continually vote Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael and suffered least in the recession compared with their children's generation.

The younger types are either struggling with mortgages or struggling to get one. They drive to work in tailbacks that stretch all the way to the 1970s. Their taxes are used to service a debt they did not run up, pay the pensions of those who did and for public services so poor they have to pay extra each time they use them.


To make life extra miserable for broken voters who are so joyful about accessing minor services they are already entitled to, polls are topped by Healy-Raes, Lowrys and dynasty TDs who’s blood type is Bisto.

Pensioners are seen as the beneficiaries of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael's decades of acquiring rule by pleasing the grey vote. The 66-plusers own their homes and despite cuts to some allowances, the old-age pension was never reduced. Now they are getting an extra fiver; a symbolic use of the denomination favoured on Fridays by their grey-eared overlord, Joseph Duffy.

They are also, however, the most abandoned and maltreated demographic. They endured such 1980s horrors as a 65 per cent tax rate and entertainment restricted to Big Tom, Twink and Sandy Kelly. These days working parents can vent their anger with wine-soaked Twitter fingers during the Ray D'Arcy Show. Their elders had to make do with shouting at Aertel while battering a Grundig.

Central Bank rules are so restrictive only a vegan beef farmer over 90 years of age accompanied by both parents can qualify for a mortgage. Still, the older generations are paying property tax at 2013 values on a house they bought for the price of a new Opel Ascona. These 'lucky' souls became walking personal guarantees in the boom and then deposit providers after the bust.

Working couples whine about getting to their nearest interchangeable filament-bulb-and-copper-counter eatery only once a quarter. The height of luxury for pensioners in the day was a slice of Viennetta on anniversary night.

Childcare subsidies are being handed out with such fanfare that Katherine Zappone enjoyed a "Varadkar" of media homage this week, to use the new collective noun for inexplicably positive PR.

Most people will not qualify for the grant because guess what? Grandparents are the childminders for people who cannot afford the creche. Back in the day, babysitting was provided by Calpol, which also came in useful for annual love-making, if they managed to get a coitus licence from the parish.

If a government takes money away, they are robbing the voters. If they give money away, they are buying votes. They are not wrong in trying to win support with budget measures. Naturally, they target the group that mostly turns out to vote. Turnout among the 18- to 25-year-olds here is lower than average compared with most European countries, according to the Irish National Election Study.

It is often said that youngsters will not turn out because of the sort of samey-politics that older generations have created with their choices at the ballot box. That is like blaming the nonchalance of Paul McCartney’s later work for the asinine, autotuned style of Justin Bieber’s bland Canadian pop.


It is as if the critics of any measure to charm grey votes consider them immune to all the negative aspects of the budget such as continuing stealth taxes and plans for a new one. “Ah sure sugar tax won’t affect Complan and anyway it doesn’t come in until 2018, by which time most elderly people will be dead” is the attitude.

To use the media's much-loved voter profiling to explain budget nuance, consider Teresa who is 72, lives in the capital, has no mortgage and drives a Volvo.

Thanks to this budget, Teresa's income will be 20 per cent higher than the average squeezed-middle Irish parent. She will spend 95 per cent less on public transport than a Galway commuter. She will have far greater access to public healthcare than a man in Kerry, and her life expectancy will be 10 years more than a person in Donegal. Teresa lives in Finland.

If she moved here, she would be a single-lunged dipso buying her smokes on a Border roadside and the closest healthcare to her would be a defibrillator in Barack Obama Plaza.

With an extra fiver in her pocket every week from March 2017, all that has changed is that her chances of meeting Marty Whelan in a TV studio on a Saturday night have gone up 10 per cent. Don't begrudge her.

Oliver Callan is a satirist and impressionist