County Monaghan pensioners have been receiving letters from Eircom in recent days advising them of cuts to their phone allowance of up to €170 a year.
While the reduction was announced by Minister Michael Noonan in the budget in December, many senior citizens only realised the huge impact this will have on their finances this week, Sinn Fein’s Cllr Matt Carthy has stated.
He said: “Letters have been received in the last few days by many pensioners across County Monaghan concerning cuts to their telephone allowance. These letters from Eircom outline annual cuts between €159.96 to €169.44 annually to the allowance of many pensioners. The truth is that many people will now struggle to pay their phone bill and some are genuinely wondering how they will cope with this cut on top of everything else they have endured from, first Fianna Fáil, and now Fine Gael in the past few years.
“Telephones are not a luxury but a lifeline, especially for older people” Cllr. Carthy said. “Many older people have children abroad and the landline telephone is essential for them to retain contact. It is not something they could manage without” he declared.
The monthly reduction from €22.58 to €9.50 is designed to save the exchequer in excess of €60 million per annum but has been criticised by Cllr Carthy as another example of government causing genuine hardship for vulnerable citizens.
“This is a deep cut of almost 60% and will cause great hardship to many people. These cuts to the allowance, combined with the recent rises in the costs of living such as food, energy and the proposed introduction of a property tax later in the year, are causing real pain and concern to many older people I am speaking to as they fear for how they will cope and struggle to pay their new higher bills.
“We are now seeing the effects on the elderly of cuts announced in the budget before Christmas. These cuts are biting hard. Many elderly people will now struggle to pay their phone bills and are in fear of what the future brings.
“Despite promises of a new approach the reality since Fine Gael came into government in 2011 has been that the Fianna Fáil approach of attacking the vulnerable while protecting the mega-wealthy has continued unabated. Unfortunately this week our elderly citizens have been the latest to feel the brunt of this philosophy” Cllr. Carthy concluded.