Martin pledges to deliver on last Budget's promise to extend medical cards to more over-70s

TAOISEACH has said that promises made in the last Budget to extend medical cards to more older people and cut prescription charges will be delivered upon.

r Martin raised the issue at a private meeting of Fianna Fáil’s TDs and Senators where he pledged that both measures “will proceed and are proceeding”.

In recent weeks it was revealed that a commitment to change income limits for over-70s medical cards that will see 56,000 more people benefit, had not yet been implemented.

Similarly a 50c cut in prescription charges for all medical card holders that was supposed to come into effect on July 1 did not happen.

The change would lead to charges being reduced to €1 per item for the over-70s and to €1.50 for people below that age.

Sources said the Taoiseach did not offer a timeline for the delivery of the promises made in the last Budget of the former Fine Gael-led minority Government that was underpinned by the Confidence and Supply deal with Fianna Fáil.

But Mr Martin was said to be “definitive” that it will happen.

Separately, Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien came under pressure from TDs and Senators to ensure an affordable housing programme is delivered in next month’s Budget.

Senator Pat Casey “got stuck in” on the issue, according to those present, and said not one affordable home had been delivered in the last ten years.

He also said the Land Development Agency, as currently proposed, is not fit for purpose.

The former Wicklow TD urged Mr O’Brien as well the Taoiseach and Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath to redouble their efforts on affordable housing in the Budget.

“Nearly every backbench TD and Senator raised it. Pat was particularly strong,” said one source.

Several others echoed calls for Fianna Fáil to deliver on affordable housing in the looming Budget including Dublin-based TDs Paul McAuliffe, Jim O’Callaghan, John Lahart and Senator Mary Fitzpatrick.

Minister Robert Troy also spoke on the issue, while his fellow junior minister Seán Fleming said the Government needed to move away from the use of affordable housing bodies and have more local authorities building housing.

Mr O’Brien delivered a detailed presentation to the meeting on the whole issue of housing, including affordability. He said he would bring forward legislation later in the year to address issues around the LDA.

“We had two hours on how important it was to deliver and that we needed to start rolling out affordable housing programmes quickly,” a Fianna Fáil source added.

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