Thursday 14 December 2017

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil agree on pension hike while prescription charges are to be cut

Finance Minister Michael Noonan.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan.

Niall O'Connor and Kevin Doyle

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have agreed that the five euro increase in the old age pension in the Budget will be paid in March.

However, the two parties remained deadlocked on a number of other social welfare issues as discussions continued into Monday night.

Senior Fine Gael sources blamed Fianna Fáil Micheál Martin for the delay in Budget 2017 being finalised.

One minister said Mr Martin was proving deeply problematic in relation to the timing of increases in payment of a range of social welfare increases.

“This is no longer about money. It’s about Micheál Martin trying to steal a victory,” the source told Independent.ie.

A senior Fianna Fáil source rejected the criticism outright and said the party would continue to “iron out” the outstanding issues during the night.

The two parties have, according to well-placed sources, agreed that the €5 increase in the pension should be paid in March.

But discussions are continuing in relation to other payments, such as the blind persons’ benefit, the carers’ benefit and the widows’ allowance.

Prescription charges for pensioners are also set to be reduced by €5 a month in a last minute change to the Budget.

The Independent Alliance demanded the cut during a meeting with Fine Gael that is still ongoing in Government Buildings.

Independent.ie understands that the maximum a person over 70 will now have to pay for prescription medicine will be capped at €20.

Anyone with a medical card under the age of 70 will continue to pay €25.

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