Labour goes on election footing

THE Government may yet fall over the medical card controversy and other budget cuts, Labour claimed yesterday, with leader Eamon Gilmore declaring that he was now gearing up for a general election.

Mr Gilmore said “the blame game” had begun within Government over the budget fall-out and “the experience of coalitions in the past is that when trust breaks down a government’s days are numbered”.

That claim was made despite the repeated attempts by the Government to put the medical card controversy to bed.

Those moves included spoken and written assurances to Independent TD Michael Lowry, guaranteeing that the thresholds announced last Tuesday regarding the medical card will be reviewed on a yearly basis, and other entitlements would remain in place.

Labour had questioned whether those guarantees would stand up to scrutiny, sparking an angry response from the Tipperary North TD.

In the letter to Mr Lowry, signed by Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, assurances were given that:

“The thresholds announced in relation to the medical card for those over 70 years of age will be reviewed annually to take cost of living increases into account over the lifetime of this government.”

“Entitlement to free travel, free electricity/TV licence and free telephone rental allowances will continue in their present form to all eligible applicants for the duration of this government.”

However, the Labour party leader was keen to increase the pressure on the Government by claiming that it could now collapse.

“When the Government was elected in June 2007 it was widely assumed, given that it had a comfortable majority, that it would run its course until 2012,” he said.

“That assumption can no longer be relied upon.”

He said the Government was “clearly incapable” of getting the budget, in its original form, through the Dáil, declaring that “the period since Tuesday of last week has seen the most remarkable period in our political life, probably since the events that led to the resignation of Albert Reynolds as Taoiseach in 1994.

“Therefore, the Labour party is making preliminary preparation for a possible general election at any time from now on.”

He said the Green party would have to “look very closely” at a Labour motion next week on the reversal of the move to increase class sizes, and he was taking the “prudent” step of ensuring his party was ready for a possible election.

Meanwhile, on the medical cards issue, Age Action has urged the public to contact their local government party TDs and senators this weekend to demand the reversal of the decision to abolish the automatic entitlement to the cards.


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