FG 'friends' pension video shot in Sligo using members
A Fine Gael party video featuring pensioners from Sligo discussing how grateful they were for a €5 increase in the pension failed to disclose most had strong connections to the party and some were members.
The video was shot at the home of Marianne Lyttle - a secretarial assistant to Deputy Tony McLoughlin. Ms Lyttle is not a member of Fine Gael but has worked for Mr McLoughlin in his Sligo office for a number of years.
From last week the pension increase came into effect rising by about €260-a-year
Anyone over the age of 66 in receipt of a State pension, including older carers and widows, will receive an increase.
The video and the press release that accompanies it says: "We went to Sligo to speak to some of the people who will directly benefit from the pension increase."
But, nowhere does it mention that the party's trip to 'rural Ireland' to see how this group of pensioners are getting on was actually a gathering of Fine Gael party members and supporters.
The impression given was this was an average group of pensioners sitting around the kitchen table to discuss the benefits of the State pension while lavishing praise on the Government for the €5 rise.
The party press release states that amongst the 'meeting with friends in Sligo this week' was retired nurse Mary Coyne, 72, from Sligo town who said Fine Gael was ensuring the elderly benefit from the economic upturn.
"I'm very pleased with the increase, we're going in the right direction and the Minister is trying to accommodate every sector in society that needs some assistance.
"In my house there's myself and my husband so we'll get nearly €500 a year with this extra €5.
"For me, it will pay my heating, which is essential when you're getting more mature in years.
"So it takes pressure off," Ms Coyne said.
The party fails to mention is that Ms Coyne is a member of Fine Gael as are most of the other older people sitting around the kitchen table.
Also In the press release, Seamus McGoldrick from Strandhill in Sligo said: "There's a lot more available to us now. And as things get better it will continue to improve.
"The prescription cap will be a help, there's the free GP which is just around the corner [for me], the flu jab and all those things are free and they all count," he added.
Mr McGoldrick has been a long time supporter and campaign worker for Deputy McLoughlin
Michael Gurrie, 73, from Ballysadare in Sligo said he was delighted to receive the €260.
"I think it will be a great help to us all. It is good to see the way the country has come out of this terrible recession and that we are now benefitting from it," Mr Gurrie said.
Iggy Hegarty, 69, from Castledargan in Sligo said the money provides an extra source of support for pensioners.
"It's happiness for myself and my wife. Outside of financial pressure it's ease of mind for myself and my wife.
"If you don't have ease of mind at our age, you're looking for illness.
"It's magnificent to see a rise of €260 per annum at a stage when our population is getting larger," he said.
Christina Gallagher, 71, from Drumcliffe in Sligo said: "I think the free GP care is wonderful, if you're sick you can ring the doctor and make an appointment straight away instead of thinking I'll wait til the end of the week, I could do without spending that."
Locally, the Fine Gael party is adopting the line of 'what is all the fuss about' and who else would be expected to be seen in a party video in Sligo other than local members.
Spokesman for Deputy McLoughlin, Parliamentary Assistant Blaine Gaffney said it was party headquarters which had approached them about shooting the video.
"It came on the back of the hosting of the most successful Brexit meeting in the country in Sligo recently at which Taoiseach Enda Kenny was present.
"It was an example to party headquarters of how to get things done properly and efficiently and we had no problem in assisting in getting this job done too either.
"Fine Gael regularly comes to Deputy McLoughlin's office seeking assistance with events and PR work.