Green Party spokesperson on sport Paul Gogarty has today called on Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan to transfer almost €70m from the Horse and Greyhound Industry Fund to end controversy around the medical card scheme for the over 70s.
In a letter to the Ministers for Finance, Health and Arts, Sport and Tourism, Gogarty said that the transfer would enable the medical card scheme to be reinstated in full or to at least ensure without any uncertainty that all but the very well off would be entitled to a full card.
The Green Party TD also suggested that a review should then be carried out of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund to see what monies were required that could not be met out of the industries' own finances.
Any additional funding could be financed by an increased betting tax, he stated. He added that the betting tax should raise the full amount of €69.72m, with a reasonable amount going to the horse and dog industries and the remainder being allocated to minority sports, which were currently feeling the financial pressure.
"I wrote to the Ministers last Friday morning and I would hope they will give consideration to this as a serious, reasoned proposal," said Gogarty. "While the vast majority of over 70s are not affected by the revised medical card scheme, the news has caused our elderly much pain and distress.
"At this stage it would be far better to abolish the proposal than to try and explain the intricacies and subject them to means testing.
"Confusion still exists in relation to the pending discussions with the IMO. I for one am not clear as to whether assessment forms will be sent out in the interim and neither would, I suspect, are most pensioners.
"It would be far better to use a tranche of available funding to cover the costs for the time being while the Government decides whether to amend the current scheme to protect those on moderate incomes or, as is my personal preference, to abolish the means-testing plan altogether."