Massive 'silver' revolt on way as axe looms over old-age pensions
A NEW silver revolution was simmering last night as the Government refused to rule out cuts to the old-age pension.
It seems the Cabinet may not have learned their lesson from the massive uproar after the 2008 medical card fiasco and are risking the wrath of the powerful grey voters again.
Social Protection Minister Eamon O Cuiv has signalled that he may have to target wealthy OAPs, or possibly even all State pension payments.
His refusal to definitely promise a special protection for pensioners in upcoming cutbacks has been met with anger from campaigners for the elderly.
Mr O Cuiv sparked the controversy after commenting that he could not guarantee the €5bn spent on pensions would be maintained into 2011.
In recent days, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan has asked ministerial colleagues to start coming up with cutbacks that will total up to €3bn.
"Looking at the €22bn spend (on social welfare), it is way too early to rule out a quarter of that consideration," Mr O Cuiv said.
The Government, which is wary of the threat to their popularity posed by vocal grey voters, left pensions untouched in last December's Budget.
However, it seems unlikely they will be able to adopt a similar strategy next time around.
Mr O Cuiv indicated that if the Government was forced into more social welfare cuts this year, it would "not be justifiable" to target the unemployment benefits and other similar payments again, while overlooking pensions.
Groups representing the elderly are expressing concerns that Mr O Cuiv may seek to make a direct cut to the State pension or introduce a system of means testing.
Fine Gael's social and family affairs spokesperson Olwyn Enright has accused the Government of targeting the vulnerable to make savings.
"It's deeply depressing that just a few weeks into his new job as Social Protection Minister Eamon O Cuiv is already talking about cutting pensions.
"Fianna Fail has already inflicted a carbon tax on every citizen, regardless of their ability to pay, and broken its Budget promise to provide assistance to those least able to pay. This is already imposing undue hardship on financially vulnerable older people."
Age Action Ireland also hit out at the minister's comments, with head of advocacy Eamon Timmons saying he suspected mean-testing was being looked at.
"There is a tax system to tax the wealthy. You can't means test the contributory pension," he said.
In October 2008, tens of thousands of OAPs mobilised after the Government attempted to remove the automatic entitlement of over-70s to hold a medical card.
A massive protest march on Leinster House forced the Government into a U-turn.