Main parties at loggerheads over potential delays to pensions increase

Fianna Fail "won't be rolled over" on demands for €5 increase to state pension

Main parties at loggerheads over potential delays to pensions increase

Fianna Fail finance spokesman Michael McGrath | Photocall file photo

Tensions are rising between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael over the possibility of delayed increases to welfare payments.

It has been reported that the Department of Social Protection wants to delay the roll out of some benefits in order to save money for other targeted payments.

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar wants to ensure that people with disabilities, those on the blind pension, widows under 66, families with children in poverty and people in receipt of illness payments are provided relief in the budget.

Fianna Fáil is looking for a €5 increase to the old age pension and has ruled out any delay to the increase.

Dara Calleary, the party's TD for Mayo, said the Fine Gael way of doing things was “deleted” in the last election.

“We want to ensure that this budget extends to as many people who are under pressure as possible. We will be flexible around that but we won’t be rolled over,” he said.

Mr Calleary was speaking at the launch of the party’s pre-Budget document. 

The document outlines the main issues the party wants addressed in the budget - however, unlike the submissions from other groups, the document has not been costed.

Referencing reports that there may be €200m more to spend than the government predicted, the party’s finance spokesman Michael McGrath said trying to plan a budget with the current government is “like taking a penalty kick with the goal posts moving.”

Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty described the briefing as “a farce” and called on Fianna Fáil to “drop the pretence that they are an opposition party.”

“Fianna Fáil has been too busy ghost-writing the Government's Budget to produce a genuine alternative of its own,” he said.

“Make no mistake. They are co-authors of the document Michael Noonan and Paschal Donohoe will present on Tuesday." 

Sinn Féin TD Louise O'Reilly said her party would be “rightly castigated” if they had released an un-costed proposal:

Labour senator Kevin Humphreys said any attempt to delay the pension increase would mean an increase of just €3.75 a week for 2017.

“Last year Fianna Fáil labelled the €3 increase as an insult, so they should clarify whether they are willing to support Fine Gael this year by delaying a real increase for pensioners,” he said.

"Any move to bring the increase back to March or April would be a bad April Fool's joke on pensioners.”

The traditional 'white paper' outlining the level of budgetary funds available to government is due for release tonight.