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Empowering Older People in Ireland to Advocate for Themselves

Resource type: Grantee Story

In October 2008, in response to the sharp economic downturn, the Irish Government introduced a supplementary budget with numerous austerity measures, including withdrawal of the automatic entitlement of people over age 70 to free primary health-care and prescription medicines.

The Irish Senior Citizens Parliament (ISCP) organised a campaign to have the proposed withdrawal of the medical card reversed through the active participation of all its 430 affiliated member associations, including Active Retirement Ireland and Senior Helpline. The voices of older people filled the airwaves and print media. The campaign culminated in the mobilisation of 15,000-20,000 older people from all corners of Ireland at a protest rally outside the Dáil (Irish Parliament).  The unprecedented protest attracted widespread public support across the generations.

While the principle of universal access was lost, 95 per cent of people over age 70 retained their entitlements following amendments to the budget provision by the government.

Mairead Hayes, Chief Executive Officer of ISCP, says: “The Irish Senior Citizens Parliament empowers older people in Ireland at local, regional and national levels by enabling them to be better informed, supported and motivated to advocate for themselves, enabling them to challenge ageism in all its manifestations and to take an active part in the national agenda. Atlantic’s support helps to make that happen.”

Since its establishment ten years ago, the ISCP has been active and influential, representing and serving older adults with a record of effective lobbying at local, national and international levels. Atlantic’s grant supports policy and membership development for the ISCP.

Travelling from all corners of Ireland, 15,000 older people protest outside the Dáil (Irish Parliament) in Dublin in late 2008 in response to the government’s withdrawal of free primary medical care and prescription medicines.