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Independent Alliance want rise in income threshold for medical cards for the over 70s

They said they are at a ‘very delicate stage’ of negotiations with Minister Paschal Donohoe.

Members of the Independent Alliance state they are still in talks with Minister Paschal Donohoe about the Budget.
Members of the Independent Alliance state they are still in talks with Minister Paschal Donohoe about the Budget.
Image: Christina Finn

THE INDEPENDENT ALLIANCE has said there is a clear case to raise the income threshold for access to a medical card for the over 70s. 

They made the announcement today as the chance of a pension increase for the elderly in this year’s Budget has effectively been ruled out.

Both Fianna Fáil’s Willie O’Dea, as well as members of the Independent Alliance, have been calling for another pension increase. However, the Taoiseach has indicated the welfare package will be modest and targeted. 

Speaking to reporters outside government buildings today, Minister of State for Disabilities, Finian McGrath, Transport Minister Shane Ross and Minister of State for the OPW, Kevin Boxer Moran, said Budget negotiations with the Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe have not yet concluded. 

They said they are at a “very delicate stage” but there are a number of items they are pushing for, with raising the threshold for the medical card being one of them. 

McGrath said he knows “it’s a big ask”, adding that if it the alliance managed to get the proposals over the line with Donohoe, they would help thousands of people. 

“We are aware that there are thousands of people who are just outside that limits, and therefore they miss out on the eligibility,” he said.

Inheritance tax

As highlighted by TheJournal.ie last month, the Independent Alliance are also calling for the threshold for inheritance tax to be increased.

Ross said despite the inheritance tax being modified last year, it is still an “unfair tax” for a lot of people, particularly those who live in modest homes. 

He said these people are “paying far too much, far too much money… We’re looking for a rise in the threshold, We’ve got a rise in the threshold last year, and we want to continue that trend, partly because it is absolutely right, and partly because it’s also a commitment made in the program for government. 

Separately, the Independent Alliance said the bookmakers tax, which was brought in last year, has worked to bring in revenue.

However, he said it has also presented difficulties for independent small bookmakers.

In the Budget 2019 speech, Paschal Donohoe confirmed that Irish gambling tax would double from January 2019, increasing from 1% to 2% for both retail and remote bets placed by customers.

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Ross said they have asked the finance minister to look at the tax again from the position of the small bookmakers and whether there might be scope to introduce a different level for smaller businesses. 

He added that negotiations have not been concluded.

“We still have some things to clear up, we haven’t agreed a full package at this stage. We’re very optimistic and confident because he’s listening to what we have to say. And particularly those things that we’ve highlighted here,” he said. 

There have been a lot of “heated conversations” with the finance minister about the carbon tax, said Boxer Moran, who said he “pushed the minister to an extreme” to ensure there are supports for the most vulnerable people impacted by the tax hike. 

He said Bord Na Mona workers also need a package of supports.

“I’m pushing extremely hard that this will be addressed in the budget. Because most people find themselves in a very, very difficult situation a time.”

He added that while there might be any chocolates given out in this budget, there will be some “sweets” or “Smarties”, though it won’t be the case of “one for everybody in the audience”.  

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