Fionnan Sheahan

Friday 1 August 2014

Fionnan Sheahan: Scaremongers fail to realise the impact it has on ordinary people

Fionnan Sheahan

Published 12/08/2013|04:00

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'Do I get rid of the cat if the €10 a week goes off the pension and I can't afford to feed it anymore?"

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Age Action's Eamon Timmins, an articulate and compassionate campaigner for the elderly, offers a thought-provoking insight into the kinds of choices pensioners face in weighing up how to make ends meet when their income is cut.

Mr Timmins has come across plenty of cases of pensioners already having to choose between heating and eating as their bills mount.

The individuals he comes across aren't those who have the luxury of heading off to the Canaries in the winter.

Instead, they're just trying to get by from week to week and make ends meet.

Yet not everyone in Government thinks about these people when engaging in speculation about the Budget.

The scaremongering of recent years reared its ugly head again as suggestions of a €10 cut to the pension sparked concerns among the elderly. Ministers scrambled to deny such a proposition was on the table.

But pensioners will feel there's no smoke without fire.

The fingers of blame within Government were being firmly pointed at Social Protection Minister Joan Burton, but her officials trenchantly deny she was responsible for the leak.

Similar to Health Minister James Reilly, the minister has form in this area of flagging potential unpalatable cuts.

The tactic is aimed at generating sufficient backlash to make certain the cut can't happen.

Sometimes the strategy has been used to soften up the public to the cuts to come but the lesson of the past few years is scaremongering is counterproductive.

The public become convinced the measure has been introduced – even if it's not actually included in the Budget at all.

Ms Burton is resisting the €400m worth of cuts set out for the social protection budget.

Cabinet colleagues are becoming increasingly tired of her approach of resisting cuts, rather than coming up with the reforms that would generate savings in a more equitable fashion. Ministers feel she needs to concentrate on the job at hand.

"She is slowly annoying everybody," a minister told the Irish Independent.

After crying wolf so many times before, Ms Burton doesn't get the benefit of the doubt.

Regardless of who was responsible for the kite-flying, the proposition was immediately shot down.

Budget 2014 will not contain a cut to the pension.

It's the one guarantee about Finance Minister Michael Noonan's speech.

The rest is still up for grabs.

Irish Independent

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