Dublin European Election Meeting – 21 May 2009June 2, 2009
The Irish Senior Citizens’ Parliament organised 2 meetings with European Election candidates from the Dublin Euro Constituency to facilitate both older people & the candidates. The meetings took place on 21 May 2009 in EPIC in the European Parliament office in Molesworth Street.
The morning meeting was attended by four European Candidates: Joe Higgins (Socialist Party), Gay Mitchell (Fine Gael), Mary Lou McDonald (Sinn Fein) and Patricia McKenna (Independent).
Joe Higgins spoke about how the living standards of people, especially the unemployed & older people, are being driven down. He also spoke about ruthless capitalism & the inevitable economic crash. He warned that the cuts in medical cards & the non-payment of the additional Christmas payment were only the start. He predicted another campaign would be needed in the autumn.
Gay Mitchell MEP spoke about the importance of the European project – especially Peace and Stability. He said that as Europe’s population is aging, a very real problem for the future is how we will pay pensions. He stressed the importance of rights and responsibilities and said that there are no easy answers to the current problems; difficult decisions have to be made. He concluded by saying that his work on the Parliament’s Development Committee and on its Economic & Monetary Affairs Committee was helping reduce the number of starving children in the world.
Mary Lou McDonald MEP complimented the Irish Senior Citizens’ Parliament and those present on the fight back on the medical cards, especially the intergenerational nature of the protest with students and older people making their voices heard on the same day. She spoke about cutbacks in the home help service, lack of finance for home adaptations & said that older people are being asked to carry the burden. She said she was against the Lisbon Treaty and opposed the privatisation of services and cuts in workers’ rights. She said that there is no pension fund guarantee here as there is in the UK and noted the effect this had had on the Waterford Crystal workers.
Patricia McKenna spoke about discrimination & workers rights, stating that in the present EU, the market often comes before workers’ rights. She stated that medical cards and the Christmas cutback hit the “softest targets”. She said that the issue of long term care has never been addressed and that developers have been using nursing homes as a profit driven opportunity, while older people tend to want long term care at home. Europe’s population is aging and their needs should be funded.
The meeting provided an opportunity to engage with the candidates on issues that affect the elderly. Topics covered included:
- The state pension is currently 32.5% of the average working wages as opposed to the European average of 60%
- Ireland’s natural resources are not being utilised properly for the good of the people.
- The issue of the banks: how to get them lending again?
- Health care issues such as the problems with A&E services, people being left on trolleys & Universal Health Care.
- The Lisbon Treaty – should we have another referendum?
- The cuts to Social welfare and pensions including the additional payment at Christmas.
The meetings were chaired by Sylvia Meehan President of the ISCP. Also in attendance were Máiréad Hayes, CEO, and Lauren Quinn Taylor, Policy Officer of the ISCP, along with representatives of the Parliament’s member organisations.
After the meeting, the ISCP held a small silent protest at the gates of Dáil Éireann as part of its ongoing campaign to reverse the Christmas cutback to pensioners. Four other Euro candidates attended the ISCP afternoon meeting.