Government decision making sloppy and irresponsible
Speaking during tonight's Dáil debate on Medical Card entitlement for the over 70s Sinn Fein Health Spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD noted "the climb-down we have seen today came about because the first crack appeared in Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party discipline. I can only describe as pathetic the role of the Green Party who played their part to the full in the framing of this Budget, including the medical card fiasco."
Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"It is frightening to think that a group of men and women sat around a Cabinet table in Government Buildings and approved the decision to re-impose means-testing for medical cards for the over 70s.
"Even looking at it from the crude point of view of political management this has been a disaster. What trust can the people have in these troubled economic times in a Government that could perpetrate such a massive political blunder?
"More worrying still is that fundamental policy decisions on health and on taxation, affecting the lives of millions of people, could be taken in such a sloppy and irresponsible and ill-considered manner.
"The climb-down we have seen today came about because the first crack appeared in Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party discipline. I can only describe as pathetic the role of the Green Party who played their part to the full in the framing of this Budget, including the medical card fiasco.
"The medical card climb-down by the Government today does not go far enough. Universal medical card entitlement for the over 70s should be fully restored.
"We in Sinn Féin approach this issue from a point of principle. We say that access to health services should be based on medical need and medical need alone. We want to see this State moving towards a universal public health system.
"If the Government is looking for savings then instead of taking away medical cards let them take away tax breaks from the developers of private hospitals. That tax break cost €10.6 million in 2006 and that saving alone would have funded 6,000 extra medical cards. Making all discretionary tax relief schemes available only at the standard rate could raise up to €1 billion. Those are just two examples.
"Finance Minister Lenihan said his Budget was a "call to patriotic action". The Minister and the Taoiseach should recall the patriotism of our senior citizens who worked all their lives, who paid taxes at much higher rates than people paid during the Celtic Tiger years, who made sacrifices so that their children and their grandchildren could enjoy a better Ireland." ENDS