Thursday 18 January 2018

Calls to rule out €10-a-week cut to State pension

Joan Burton. Photo: Damien Eagers
Joan Burton. Photo: Damien Eagers

PRESSURE was last night mounting on the Government to categorically rule out cuts to the old-age pension ahead of the Budget.

Age Action said that reports of a possible €10-a-week cut are terrifying elderly people.

"Pensioners can't emigrate. They can't go back to work. They are stuck. And their income has been frozen while at the same time, they have been hit by new taxes and cuts," said Head of Advocacy and Communications at Age Action Ireland, Eamon Timmins.

Fianna Fail warned that the coalition faces "war" if it tries to slice anything of the pension in the upcoming Budget.

Reports suggesting that the pension is one area being looked at for savings sparked outrage last night – and a Government minister was quickly sent out to deny the possibility.

It had been suggested that Fine Gael and Labour are toying with the idea of cutting €10-a-week off the pension.


This would bring in massive savings for the Government, but they risk the ire of the powerful 'grey vote'.

Fianna Fail's social protection spokesman Willie O'Dea has called on the Government to clarify their stance ahead of the October budget.

"If Joan Burton is ready to acquiesce with another attack on the most vulnerable, she'd better be prepared for war," he said. "I want the Government to make an unequivocal statement that this is not going to happen."

At the Tullamore Show, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said that all sorts of cutbacks were being discussed.

But he added: "As a Cabinet minister I have heard nothing of it. I'd say there isn't much substances to that story."

At present, more than half-a-million pensioners receive payments of up to €230 a week.

The Government has previously talked about ways of means testing the payments but this would prove more difficult than a straightforward cut.

The International Monetary Fund, which forms part of the Troika, told the Government last September to cut the old-age pension as well as the minimum wage, social welfare payments and child benefit as part of a range of measures to reduce the budget deficit.

While details of the proposed cut to the old-age pension are not yet finalised, it is estimated that a €10 a week reduction across the board would realise a saving of between €250m and €300m. This would put a big dent into the €3.1m savings target for next year's budget.

However, Mr Timmons said that Social Protection Minister Joan Burton had given no indication that such a cut was on the table.

"In all our meetings with Joan Burton, she has assured us that she will protect core payments. But these reports have us very worried.

"Taking €10 off the State pension would cause huge, huge hardship and the Government knows that," he said.

"We hope that this is just kite flying which we see every year in the run up to the budget.

"But if the Government is serious about this, they must realise that there will be fierce opposition. This is upsetting and scaring people and it has worried our organisation."


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