Budget under fire from young and old
A budget passed off as fair and progress by the Government has been slammed as an attack on the young, old and new mothers.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan unveiled a €2.5bn savings plan offering the country the cold comfort that it could have been much worse.
Among the main measures are:
• Maternity benefits to be cut by 32 a week for some mothers
• Fianna Fáil claims up to 100,000 people will lose their full medical cards
• 0.6% pension levy increased to 0.75% and extended until end of 2014
• Packet of cigarettes up 10c to approximately 9.50
• Beer, cider and a measure of spirits up by 10c
• Free GP care to children aged five and under
• Banks to pay 150m levy each year for two years
• 9% Vat rate for tourism businesses to be retained
The elderly have been targeted through a number of cutbacks.
The telephone allowance – worth 9.50 a month – will be abolished in the new year, while a tightening up of the eligibility for the over-70s medical cards will mean tens of thousands lose free health care.
About 35,000 older people will lose their full medical cards, but in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the “grey army” revolt when pensioners forced a U-turn on a similar issue in 2009 the Government has offered free GP care.
Health Minister Dr James Reilly urged pensioners not to worry.
“I know that older people may feel they are having something that has been taken away, but they have been replaced with the free GP care card, so they don’t have to worry about the cost of going to a doctor,” he said.
However, the national Women’s Council said the budget was anti-women.
“Standardising maternity benefit at 230 per week is absolutely anti-women and anti-families. This is not in the best interest of women, their children or indeed society as a whole,” Director Orla O’Connor said.
Age Action said the eldest will be the hardest hit.
“The housebound, those living alone, and the sickest and poorest of older people will be hardest hit by today’s measures,” said spokesperson Eamonn Timmons.
Fianna Fail finance spokesman Michael McGrath said not even the dead were safe from cuts.
— Juno McEnroe, Political Reporter
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