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Fianna Fáil slaps down government's idea of means-testing for pension payments

Fianna Fáil accused the government of kite-flying.

Image: Sam Boal

FIANNA FÁIL HAS slapped down the government’s idea of means-tested pensions payments – dubbing it as “kite-flying” by Fine Gael. 

Regina Doherty, Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, said recently that means-determined pension payments could be on the cards if the government is to overhaul the pension system. 

The government is considering moving away from universal welfare and pension increases as seen in recent years towards a model that could see people getting different amounts in their State pensions.

Doherty said the idea of a minimum standard payment would be done over a number of years and would require “substantial means-testing for households”.

She said it is not “fair” that some older people receive State pensions that are more than they need while others on the same amount live in poverty.

“We need to have both political and societal buy-in because how do you explain to a lady in Donegal that she is going to get more or less than a lady in somewhere else without having the space to fully explore and socialise the idea.

“If you live in an area and can get public transport outside your door and can get on a bus with a free travel card, well then you don’t have that cost of living. Where if you lived in Glenroe and you didn’t have any buses and you had to have a car or bicycle,” she said.

However, when asked about the plan, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin dismissed the notion.

“It was kite flying. We do have means testing viz a viz non-contributory and contributory. I don’t see that happening.  I think it’s kite flying,” he said. 

With Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael entering into Budget discussions in the weeks ahead, it is questionable whether such a proposal would be considered. 

Doherty has also said that she can’t guarantee any social welfare payment increases in next year’s Budget due to the uncertainty around Brexit.

The previous four budgets have seen increases to the State pension by either €3 or €5 each year, with all pensioners benefitting.

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