herald

Sunday 22 October 2017

Backbench vents fury at Cowen over pension cuts

FIANNA Fail TDs vented their fury over proposals to cut the non-contributory State pension last night, telling Taoiseach Brian Cowen it is "off limits".

The first signs of a backbench revolt against the Budget emerged just hours after the Herald reported how the Cabinet may be asked to consider slashing more than €5 off the State pension.

And today, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan's aunt, Mary O'Rourke, told the Herald that the Cabinet should reassure OAPs about their Budget plans.

"These are people who live at the lowest rung and we have a duty to say that 'thus far we'll go but we'll stop at that'," she said.

A private meeting of the Fianna Fail TDs and senators was told last night by Mr Cowen that no area of public spending was being overlooked in the lead up to the Budget.

OAPs escaped largely unscathed from last year's Budget but in a speech to the Dail yesterday, the Taoiseach gave the strongest indication yet that they will have to cough up on this occasion.

But Deputy O'Rourke responded by warning that people would not accept a hit on the non-contributory pension.

She was supported by six other party members, who also argued strongly for the protection of the elderly over any other sector in society.

"Everything is on the table and that's what sparked me to say what I did," she explained.

"I said we had a duty to people on the very lowest payment."

Speaking to the Herald today, she added: "I'm a survivor of the MacSharry cuts so I smile at what they talk about now, we're at zero by comparison."

In an address to the Dail yesterday, Mr Cowen pointed out that between 2005 and 2010, the contributory State pension rose by 37.7pc at a time when inflation was "just 10.3pc".

"Those gains are real and substantial," said Mr Cowen.

A two-day debate on the economic crisis continues today as speculation predicts that Mr Lenihan's four-year Budget plan will be extremely complex.

He will produce the document in mid-November, outlining the full measures on December 7.

kdoyle@herald.ie

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