There is no doubt that yesterday's budget places a disproportionate burden on older people in our society and targets them in a savage way. It seems the cuts were designed to target older people when they are most vulnerable, when they are sick, bereaved or living alone. In 2008 the Taoiseach made a statement in this House on how the Government should behave towards older people. He said it should not "use the elderly as a tool or weapon, reducing them to economic statistics." I quote:
Elderly people do not want to be pressurised about means tests and application forms or have to worry about their property, their savings, what they have in the bank, whether a man from Government will call to their home or if they will lose their right to the medical card. They do not want that. They are anxious about what might happen to themselves and their families.
Yesterday's budget sums up everything the Taoiseach said older people did not want from a Government. It includes the unacceptable abolition of the telephone allowance, the definite withdrawal of 35,000 medical cards from people over 70 and the wider witch hunt of another approximately 100,000 medical cards that will be taken from people. It has already started. The letters withdrawing medical cards from people are being issued so savings can take effect from January. Anyone listening to Joe Duffy's "Liveline" during the week would have heard those letters read out.
The five-fold increase in prescription charges over the last two years will hit older people significantly. The doubling of property tax will hit older people. The reduction of tax relief on health insurance and the abolition of the bereavement grant are all targeted at older people. Added up it represents a very savage attack and targeting of older people in our community. Why, in this particular budget, did the Taoiseach single out older people for particular targeting and discriminatory treatment? What did the older people of Ireland ever do to the Taoiseach to deserve such treatment? Will the Taoiseach commit to reversing these cuts, particularly the abolition of the telephone allowance and the definite withdrawal of 35,000 medical cards from the over-70s?