Belfast Telegraph

Pensioners protest over Budget cuts

Up to 12,000 mostly older people descended on Leinster House to mount a noisy demonstration against multimillion-euro government cuts targeting the elderly.

Many who had travelled from throughout the country carried placards attacking the Fine Gael/Labour coalition and joined in chants of "shame, shame, shame" directed at the Dail.

At least three older people collapsed during the lunch-time rally in central Dublin, which had to be interrupted at one stage to secure medical help for one sick protestor.

Several speakers from the Irish Senior Citizens Parliament as well as from political and trade union backgrounds took to a makeshift stage to denounce austerity measures hitting medical care, telephone allowances and bereavement grants.

Cheered on by the huge crowd, Paddy Moran, of trade union Siptu, mocked Taoiseach Enda Kenny's pre-election promises to make Ireland a great country in which to grow old.

"One of the main boasts of this government is that the core State pension has been left untouched by this Budget," he said.

"And, of course, they are right. That is, if you don't suffer from any illnesses that require a visit to the doctor, that would require hospitalisation, or any kind of prescribed medicines.

"It was also a great budget as long as you or and your spouse or partner manage to stay alive forever - so you would not be in need of the bereavement grant."

The veteran activist said the abolition of the telephone allowance had condemned older people to a life of isolation.

Former junior health minister and Labour party rebel Roisin Shortall was briefly heckled by a small number of people in the crowd when she took to the podium.

But after a steward called for order, she urged the gathering to step up the fight against the Budget cuts.

"It's a disgrace that you have to take to the streets again because of what this government is doing to older people," she said.

Ms Shortall called on people to get on the airwaves, on the streets and on to government TDs to stop the "unfair" Budget.

"Once upon a time we had a country that stood by the older generation, where older people were listened to, looked after, loved and where older people were treated with respect and not treated like some kind of unwanted burden," she added.

Robin Webster, chief executive of Age Action, said the Budget has hit the sickest, the most vulnerable and the poorest of older people.

A small number of protesters broke away after the demonstration to march on the GPO on O'Connell Street.

Gardai said there were no major incidents and put the turnout at the main rally at around 12,000 people.

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