Pension bomb blows up for 600,000 people
Deficits in largest companies skyrocket; Brexit is a key factor in the pensions slump; Bank of Ireland alone has deficit of €700m
The deficits in the pension funds of the State's largest companies and semi-states have ballooned, raising fears that far more schemes are to close.
It means the much-feared pensions time bomb is now exploding for workers who are not in the public sector. More than 600,000 people are active, deferred or pensioner members of defined benefit schemes.
New research from consultants LCP Ireland shows that the combined deficits more than doubled from €2.6bn last year, to close to €7bn so far this year.
The research is for defined benefit schemes, which are struggling to keep promises to pay a certain level of pension based on years of service and final salary.
LCP looked at 11 of the largest quoted companies, 11 semi-states, and four others listed on stock exchanges outside Ireland.
LCP partner Conor Daly said: "Coping with the rise in deficits over 2016 could have significant implications for members, who will undoubtedly have to take some of the pain - for example, cuts in benefits or closure to future accrual."
The latest crisis for pensions comes despite almost a third of defined benefit schemes shutting down in the past 10 years.
Bank of Ireland had the biggest deficit at €700m, followed by CRH. Only insulation board maker Kingspan was in surplus. Guinness brewer Diageo was close to being fully funded.
The build-up of massive deficits was blamed in part on the Brexit referendum, which led to a fall in bond yields.