Under fire: minister Éamon Ó Cuív

OUTSPOKEN FIANNA Fáil TD John McGuinness has criticised the Minister for Social Protection, Éamon Ó Cuív for refusing to rule out budget cuts to the old age pension.

McGuinness has called on Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Ó Cuív to publicly clarify the government's position immediately, as he and other Fianna Fáil backbench TDs faced questions on the issue at their constituency clinics yesterday.

McGuinness told the Sunday Tribune: "There is huge anger. People are very uncertain about the situation with their pensions. It is extremely unfair for the minister to make these comments and leave a vulnerable section of society to wait and see what will happen in December's budget.

"It is now up to the government to clarify its position straight away and give a clear statement of their intent.

"I have been at a number of meetings and functions over the last few days and I have had a huge number of people, without any exaggeration, asking me to clarify what the government's intent is but unfortunately I can't offer any clarity to them.

"As the party of de Valera and Lemass, this certainly would not have happened as they had great respect for the elderly."

The issue is expected to be brought up at this week's parliamentary party meeting. Fianna Fáil TDs are particularly sensitive following the medical card fiasco two years ago.

There was little support for Mc­Guinn­ess among backbenchers contacted by the Sunday Tribune. Tipperary South TD Mattie McGrath said: "There will be no budget until December so I think that minister Ó Cuív was only putting out a feeler. It is like the means test for the medical cards – I don't see why a millionaire should be getting the state pension."

Tipperary North TD Máire Hoctor endorsed Ó Cuív's approach and said, "He is coming into a new department with fresh ideas. He is saying everything is up for consideration and he is a long way from a decision."

Meath East TD Thomas Byrne said he was "fairly confident" the pension will not be touched."