Pensioners are set to receive another increase in their weekly State payment as part of the upcoming Budget, the Taoiseach has indicated, writes Elaine Loughlin.
Leo Varadkar has said he wants to increase the State pension in 2018 and in the coming years. It comes after pensioners got a €5 increase as part of Budget 2017 — a measure which had been strongly pushed by Fianna Fáil’s social protection spokesman Willie O’Dea.
During a briefing with journalists, Mr Varadkar said he would not be able to go on into “any specifics” on Budget measures around tax, pensions, welfare, or spending “because we just aren’t at that point yet”.
However, he said Government intends raising the pension.
“There are many moving parts and we are not at the point where we can make any specific commitment on any specific issue at this stage,” said the Taoiseach.
“But what I will say is the Programme for Government states very clearly it is our intention to increase the pension and increase it ahead of the rate of inflation and to do so every year. That is absolutely our intention and our plan, and we are working towards increasing the pension in the next budget.”
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin hit back at reports that he is on a collision course with Fine Gael over increasing the State pension. He said claims that there is a war of words between himself and the Taoiseach were “ridiculous and without foundation”.
“The confidence and supply arrangement provides for an increase in the old age pension over the next number of years, and last year we were successful in securing a €5 increase as part of that agreement,” said Mr Martin.
“Neither party has entered into discussions on the specifics of the next budget.
“Fianna Fáil wants to see pensioners looked after in Budget 2018. However, no specifics have been discussed at this stage.”
Responding to the latest figures which show that 1,784 young people have been waiting for more than a year for a primary care psychology appointment, Fianna Fáil mental health spokesman James Browne said the figures provide clear evidence of a crisis in mental health services.
“The fact is that almost one in three children waiting for an appointment has been on a list for over a year. It’s simply unacceptable,” said Mr Martin.
This article first appeared on the Irish Examiner.