FORMER Health Minister Micheál Martin said he did not accept there was any embarrassment over the Government’s recent medical card climbdown, and that the country needed to “move on” from the issue.
Speaking at the launch of the Bord Gáis power plant project at Whitegate, Co Cork, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who was the minister for health when the over-70s measure was first introduced, said it had come about in very different economic circumstances.
He denied that the budget was unravelling and said further difficult decisions would have to be made to tide the country over.
“Back in 2001, it was part of a broader range of measures for old people,” he said.
“Now the situation has vastly changed.
“We know we have had a very severe revenue downturn, a significant global financial crisis which everybody is aware of.”
Mr Martin said the Government had “listened to people over the last week or two.”
“The bottom line is we have listened, we have taken on board what people have said and we have changed.
“I have been through politics for quite a long time and many decisions have been taken and amended,” he said.
“You have to respond and move on and keep the eye on the big picture, which is to take the country through this very difficult time.”
Mr Martin said it was not the first time mistakes had been made in budgets.
“The fact that we are living in a democracy means we have taken corrective action by putting new measures in place.”
He said it was premature to assume the debacle could cost Fianna Fáil any future elections. “We have four years to go and I think we will be judged on all the decisions we make and not just this one.
“There will be more challenging and unpopular decisions ahead but we have to get it right,” Mr Martin said.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved