Fianna Fáil Finance spokesperson Michael McGrath has described the massive falls suffered by international stock markets since the start of the year as a further set-back to pension savers already reeling from Michael Noonan’s €2.5bn raid on retirement funds.
Deputy McGrath commented “Stock markets have suffered the worst start to a new year in decades. Some markets are down by over 20 per cent from their peak. The fifth installment of Michael Noonan’s raid on pensions took place at the end of June last year. It brought to €2.5bn the total amount he has confiscated from savers since he introduced the levy on private pension funds in 2011. I warned him at the time that pension savers could not take another hit. The recent stock market upheaval further highlights the folly of the raid on pensions.
“Many pension schemes are already struggling to pay the benefits pensioners are entitled to. Pension schemes, such as the Aer Lingus pension fund, whose members have already had their benefits slashed, have seen their assets further depleted.
“The unfortunate reality for current and future pensioners is that there will be no rebate for them to take in to account the massive falls in the value of their investments in recent times. Minister Noonan has made off with his loot and pension fund trustees and their members are now left to pick up the pieces. Undoubtedly the combination of these events will lead to reduced retirement incomes for tens of thousands of pensioners.
“The extension of the pension fund levy into 2015 was a betrayal of the government’s consistent claim that it would only introduce a temporary four year levy to fund job creation which would expire at the end of 2014. It joins a long list of broken promises from preserving child benefit to not increasing third level fees.
“Minister Noonan and his cabinet colleagues have never acknowledged that private pensions are not a luxury. They are the savings that hard-working individuals have carefully put away over the years so they can look after themselves in their old age rather than rely solely on the State. This government has been particularly harsh in their treatment of older citizens, by savaging the household benefits package, multiplying prescription charges and increasing DIRT tax. Given the manner in which state benefits for the elderly have been systematically eroded by this Government, there has never been a greater need than now for such a safety net,” concluded Deputy McGrath.