Martin takes a hands-off approach to state pension

MICHEÁL MARTIN has said Fianna Fáil’s promise not to lower the state pension was policy platform and not an election ploy to retain support among the elderly.

He said for the past decade the Government has nudged up the pension payment to above €200 a week and he felt this was the right thing to do.

He said pensioners had “made their contribution to society” and they were not in competition with other welfare recipients who have had their entitlements cut.

“It is not one against the other. But I do believe given the contribution senior citizens have made, and the challenges that they have, I think it is important to maintain it [the pension] and protect their situation,” he said.

Mr Martin made his comments at an independent living facility under construction in Naas. He said pensioners had been afforded a “clear priority” under the last Government. Throughout the five years of the IMF/EU recovery plan the pension would be protected regardless of necessary cuts.

Fianna Fáil has continued to find favour among older voters while, according to a youth poll in the Irish Examiner, the under 35s have veered towards the Labour Party.

The last Government was forced into one of its most emphatic climb-downs when its attempt to withdraw the automatic medical card for the over-70s backfired. A revolt by senior citizens at this point terrified backbenchers who feared a key Fianna Fáil constituency would turn against them.

However, Mr Martin said this was not the consideration for the party when making commitments to pensioners.

“We have looked after it [the pension] from the very beginning. Ten years ago we set out a programme for the elderly, in terms of increasing the state pension and we stuck by it and we fulfilled our commitments in that regard. In terms of the other aspects of the social welfare system people move in and out of certain categories, be it unemployment, children and teenagers and so on, for senior citizens [it takes effect] once you get past a certain age… there is a significant timeframe in all our lives that we have to provide for and we have to provide adequately for,” he said.

At the announcement Mr Martin was flanked by Minister for State with responsibility of seniors’ issues, Áine Brady.

But he said he was not campaigning to suit various interest groups.

“We can’t run elections on opinion polls,” he said.

Mr Martin will go head-to-head with the leaders of the two main political parties this evening for the final televised debate in the campaign while trailing in the polls to both Fine Gael and the Labour Party.

He said he was not concentrating on toppling either party leader and would focus on his own effort to bring out the vote.

In addition, he said he would remain as leader of Fianna Fáil even if the party had a very bad result on Friday.

Mr Martin said he had spoken to grassroots members about the importance of returning the party to its core principals and the traditions which founded it.

He said that work would continue in the months and years after the election.

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