There has to be a 'realistic increase' for pensioners in budget - Micheál Martin

The Fianna Fáil leader says they have no intention to be "reckless or irresponsible" in budget negotiations

Micheál Martin says it is important that pensioners get "some recognition" in this year's budget, saying he does not believe they escaped cuts during the "very tough" years.

Ahead of the election, Fianna Fáil pledged to increase the state pension by €30 a week over a five year period.

The party's finance spokesperson Michael McGrath has indicated there should be a €5 increase this year.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Mr Martin argued that there has to be a 'realistic increase' in Budget 2017.

"Many pensioners we met over the last number of years said they were hit very hard - in terms of the prescription charge going up to €2.50, in terms of the living alone allowance being removed, in terms of the impacts of all the charges on their basic income," he argued.

"We made commitments over a five year period - we don't make any apologies for saying that we have to look after the elderly and pensioners who did so much to build this country up down through the years."

He stressed that his party had not discussed 'specific figures' during their negotiations with the Government, but said it has to be a "realistic increase for pensioners [...] They were very, very angry last year with the €3 increase, they felt that was an insult to them."

On the subject of their negotiations with the minority Government, he suggested his party is calling for "fairness and decency" to characterise the budget, and that it "shouldn't hit lowest incomes the most".

"We are very clearly signalling that education has to be dealt with," he added.

He reiterated that his party's agreement with the Government ensures that there will "not be any surprises" in the budget.

"We're going into that in a very constructive way," he said. "It's not our objective to pull the rug under anybody. We're not there to be reckless or irresponsible."