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Government climb-down does not go far enough – Ó Caoláin

21 October, 2008 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD


Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has described this morning's announcement of new arrangements for medical card entitlements for the over 70s as a significant climb-down by the Government but Sinn Féin wants to see the State moving towards a universal public health system.

He said it is clear that massive public pressure led to this climb-down but this is just one of dozens of unfair cutbacks included in the budget and called on the public to apply further pressure on the Government to reverse other measures such as the decision to increase class sizes.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "This is a significant climb-down by the Government but it does not go far enough. Universal medical card entitlement for the over 70s should be fully restored. This decision comes from a Government reeling after the wave of anger which hit them in the wake of the budget.

"After creating all this anxiety it is now unclear whether the Government will make any savings from the scheme at all. The original decision should simply be reversed and universal provision for over 70s restored.

"We now have a Government in crisis making up policy as it goes along. Just six months into his term of office Brian Cowen has made one of the biggest Government climb-downs in the history of the state under pressure from his own back-benchers, the opposition and, crucially, the public at large.

"The decision to take the medical card from tens of thousands of people over 70 was one of the most callous, one of the most ill-considered and one of the stupidest decisions ever made by an Irish government. It has caused anguish, distress, confusion and justified anger among older people throughout this State. In 11 years as a Teachta Dála in Leinster House I have never received so many representations from so many people in such a short time.

"I want to commend senior citizens for making their voices heard so loudly and so clearly over the past week. They have rocked the political system and it is clear that massive public pressure led to this climb-down.

"But the decision on medical cards for the over 70s was just one of dozens of unfair cutbacks included in this budget. I would urge the public to continue to apply pressure on the Government to reverse other measures such as the decision to increase class sizes.

"The fact is that there are many other revenue raising options open to the Government but the policies that they pursue led them to target the most vulnerable in our society.

"Sinn Féin, in our pre-budget submission, made a number of revenue raising proposals, which, if implemented, would have raised enough money to ensure that the most vulnerable in society were protected. These included ending tax breaks for private hospitals and making all discretionary tax relief schemes available only at the standard rate. We noted that this would raise €1 billion (PQ no. 28 - Sept 25th 2008)." ENDS

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