Sunday 20 August 2017

'My priority has never been to get one over on anyone' - Vardakar defends €5 pension hike

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar TD speaking to media following Budget 2017 at Government Press Centre, on Merrion Street, Dublin Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar TD speaking to media following Budget 2017 at Government Press Centre, on Merrion Street, Dublin Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Anne-Marie Walsh

The Minister for Social Protection has denied he tried to get one up on Fianna Fail by giving state pensioners a €5 increase.

Leo Varadkar also insisted he wanted the hike to come into force from January 1 but the government could not afford the extra €90m it would cost.

He revealed that the government only decided that the pension increase would begin in March this morning following negotiations with Fianna Fail.

Mr Varadkar said the improved payment for 400,000 pensioners is just one of the measures in the first across-the-board increase in welfare payments since 2008.

Minister of State for Disability Issues Finian McGrath TD & Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar TD speaking to media following Budget 2017 at Government Press Centre, on Merrion Street, Dublin Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Minister of State for Disability Issues Finian McGrath TD & Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar TD speaking to media following Budget 2017 at Government Press Centre, on Merrion Street, Dublin Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

He said the increases for recipients of payments including carers, the blind, widows, the disabled, lone parents and jobseekers will signal the end of the Recession in many welfare recipients’ minds.

"My priority has never been to get one over on anyone else," he said. "It (the pension increase) was in our manifesto as well as Fianna Fail's,"

He said the parties came quickly to the conclusion that they could not have another increase for pensioners and once again do nothing at all for other groups.

During discussions, he said it was debated that some groups might get €5 and others €4, that some could be paid in January and some in June, or jobseekers left out.

“I would have much preferred if it was from January 1, I definitely would have, but it would have cost another €90m and turned a €300m package into a €400m package.” He said the start date for the increases will be given in the Social Welfare Bill, but he insisted all payments will increase in March.

Mr Varadkar was giving details of the €301m budget for his department next year.

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