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Photograph by John Kelly.

Anger as pensioners excluded from Stay and Spend scheme

THE exclusion of pensioners from a new tourism stimulus scheme for the off-peak season has been described as “a real slap in the face” by the Shannon-based President of Active Retirement Ireland.

Kay Murphy told The Champion the terms of the new Stay and Spend scheme, which provides a tax rebate on certain tourism products and services, “victimised” those on State pensions.

The initiative, which allows people to claim 20% back on up to €625 spent between October and April of next year, excludes anyone who does not pay tax.

I’m very disappointed about this, so many of our members are dependent solely on the State pension,” Mrs Murphy said. “Because they don’t pay tax any more, they’re not eligible for the scheme.” Mrs Murphy noted that the value of Active Retirement members to the tourism sector had been valued last year at €13.5m and that their exclusion from the scheme made no sense.

At this stage, those of us over 65 have been in lockdown and isolation for so long, that we deserve a perk,” she said. “We are ready to get out and about, within reason.”

We won’t lie down under this,” she added. “We are already lobbying government and we’ll take this as far as we can. The whole thing writes us off and puts us in a box. We are the backbone of tourism in the off-peak and off-season times and the fact that there’s nothing for us in this scheme is just not acceptable.”

Mrs Murphy added that her own preference would have been for a voucher system for use in hospitality and tourism businesses, and questioned why the government had not gone down that route. After the launch of the scheme Tánaiste Leo Varadkar explained that a voucher scheme would not work, saying that if they were to be allocated according to peoples’ PPS numbers the government could run the risk of giving vouchers to those who do not live here any more.

Meanwhile, around 900,000 workers, outside the tax net, will not be able to avail of the Stay and Spend scheme.

About Fiona McGarry

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Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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