The withdrawal of the automatic right of a medical card to the over 70s is one of the most callous and savage measures introduced in a Budget since the foundation of the State.
That was the claim made by Senator Paudie Coffey following the unprecedented protest staged by thousands of senior citizens outside Leinster House last Wednesday.
During a Seanad debate on the Budget, Senator Coffey heaped scorn on the Government regarding several high-profile public spending projects.
“Some €52 million was wasted on electronic voting,” he said. “It cannot be stated enough that the Government dismissed any opposition to the project. Some €160 million was wasted on PPARS, there was a €37 million overspend on the Kilkenny flood relief scheme and €99.5 million was spent on Campus Stadium Ireland.
“Considerable sums of public money have gone down the drain. Who are suffering only the ordinary people?”
Describing the Budget as “mean-spirited and soft-optioned”, Senator Coffey said “it was an attack on the children and the elderly and it is a disgrace”.
He added: “It has caused fear, confusion and concern in every community and the Government Senators should be ashamed of themselves. They are a disgrace and I tell them this to their faces across this House.
“The Government has lost all its personal touch and its connection with human nature and values, as demonstrated in the Budget.”
Referencing a school he had visited last week which contained 36 junior and 34 senior infants, Senator Coffey said the only way for class numbers to go, due to measures introduce in the Budget, was up.
“We need positive, proactive investment in our future,” he continued. “What better approach than to invest in our children and protect our elderly?”
Backing Enda Kenny’s call for universal health care, Senator Coffey stated that the medical card “should be restored for all people over the age of 70”.
Added Senator Coffey: “Fianna Fáil still has to get the message that this attack on elderly people has to be reversed, even after the protests over the last few days by the nation’s elderly people.
“The protest [at] St Andrews Church, Dublin, where more than 1,000 people attended and the protest outside Leinster House…where 15,000 people turned up, were both fantastic displays of discontent with the decision and will live long in the memory of all those people who attended.”
Senator Coffey met with senior citizens from Waterford who had travelled to Dublin for the protest and received a petition containing 2,000 signatures.
“That petition represented the feelings of all of the people of Waterford and of the country, that this shameful idea should be reversed in full,” he said.
“We in Fine Gael have done everything in its power to have this most savage, callous and shameful decision reversed. We are listening and we stand by the people of Waterford and Ireland who travelled up to Dublin to protest outside the gates of Leinster House.”