THE Government waited for the final Budget under the troika to implement some of the unkindest cuts of the entire bailout period.
Pensioners, medical card holders, working mothers, the young unemployed, savers and families with health insurance were all targeted in a series of painful cuts and tax increases totalling €2.5bn.
Low- to middle-income families with sick children are in danger of losing their medical cards as a result of a widescale ‘review’.
The cull of more than 150,000 medical cards is emerging as a potential flashpoint of the Budget – overshadowing the move to give a GP-only card to every child aged under five.
The shock measure came on top of one in 10 pensioners over the age of 70 losing their medical card due to a change in income thresholds.
Health insurance costs for families could prove explosive. Premiums are likely to rise after the move to reduce the tax relief on policies and charge insurers more for using public hospitals. The measure is expected to indirectly affect 90pc of health insurance premiums.
Pensioners are also set to lose their telephone allowance, which will cost them €114 a year.
But the Budget did contain measures designed to stimulate the economy, create jobs and boost tourism, the construction sector and the property market.
The Coalition also began to crack down on the black economy and pledged to tackle the contentious issue of tax avoidance by multinationals.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan said the purpose of the Budget was to continue the progress already made, reinforce policies to grow the economy, establish the conditions to create jobs “and to prepare for exiting the bailout programme”.
He added: “We are well along the recovery path and it is time now, as a nation, to begin to look forward.”
But Fianna Fail finance spokesman Michael McGrath picked out the scrapping of the bereavement grant as an example of the cruel cuts in the Budget.
“Even the dead, Minister, are not safe from this Government,” he said.