Wednesday 17 January 2018

Labour faces pensioner backlash over 'patronising' €3 rise

Older people have endured reductions in incomes totalling more than €1,600 in four years, says Fianna Fáil’s Willie O’Dea
Older people have endured reductions in incomes totalling more than €1,600 in four years, says Fianna Fáil’s Willie O’Dea
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

The Labour Party is facing an angry backlash from pensioners during the next General Election campaign, despite increasing the old-age pension in the Budget.

Joan Burton's €3 weekly pension hike has been welcomed by some, but the Tánaiste was forced to insist she was not trying to "buy the grey vote" with the pre-election increase in the pension.

Groups representing older people are now insisting the increase was "not enough" and claim pensioners were one of the hardest hit groups during the recession.

Age Action Ireland says pensioners have seen their income slashed by €13 since 2009.

And Alone CEO Sean Moynihan yesterday said the Labour Party would be hit in the polls for failing to do more to protect older people in the Budget.

Meanwhile, figures compiled by Fianna Fáil Social Protection spokesman Willie O'Dea show older people have endured income reductions totalling more than €1,600 in four years.

Mr O'Dea said constituents had complained to him that the €3 pension increase was not enough for a "pint or bag of chips".

It was speculated before the Budget that the pension would be increased by around €5 - before any rise was ruled out.

However, on Budget day it was revealed that pensioners would receive an extra €3-a-week and also benefit from a 75pc restoration of the Christmas bonus.

Some pensioners will also see a rise in their fuel allowance.

However, activists and opposition politicians say the Budget was "patronising" to older people and was aimed at getting the Coalition re-elected.

Fianna Fáil highlighted that pensioners had been hit with a series of "stealth taxes" since the Coalition took office - including water charges, property tax and prescription charges.

At the same time, the fuel allowance for electricity and gas costs were slashed and the telephone allowance was abolished.

Fine Gael TDs had called for a restoration of the telephone allowance ahead of this week's Budget, but Labour favoured restoring the fuel allowance.

"I'm getting calls into the office saying this wouldn't buy me a pint or a bag of chips, it wouldn't buy me a loaf of bread and what about all I've lost," Mr O'Dea said.

"Pensioners have been taking a severe beating in the past four years and they are being put to the back of the queue now that the recovery is taking place."

Mr Moynihan said older people were the most vulnerable groups when rents were rising because they were on fixed low incomes and were not very attractive to landlords. "There is a bit of a patronising effect on older people," Mr Moynihan said.

"Older people live in the worst housing conditions because of their low incomes.

"The people who come to us have housing, rent and health issues and what is in this Budget is not going to solve the problems facing the people we deal with."

Mr Moynihan said that the fuel allowance had been "wiped out" by the increase in energy prices over the past two years.

He said it was Labour voters - those on lower incomes - who had been most affected by the years of austerity cuts.

"We did our best with the limited resources available to provide for each main group," a Labour spokesman said.

Irish Independent

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