Wednesday 28 September 2016

Enough of our age limits - a whole generation is being made to retire from being treated equally

Published 30/05/2016 | 02:30

Tipperary South TD Mattie McGrath Photo: Tom Burke
Tipperary South TD Mattie McGrath Photo: Tom Burke

It was a race to the train. He was moving fast in his good suit. The clogs of brown brogues didn't help, but the runner made the train in time all the same.

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The commuter passed out a good few of the younger runners in their flats and flapping coats. The gallop to the train didn't faze him. He was breathing as easy as a baby in the cot.

The Dart was packed with people on their way to work. And the runner was the oldest worker in the carriage. He was about 50 plus Vat, I would say.

So it got me thinking. And I came to the conclusion that all the 50-plus-Vats either drove to work or they didn't work anymore.

And why? Is it because they were considered to be past it? Too old, and unfit for purpose?

I'm sure there were many who had had enough and were glad to retire. The pension was a temptation. It could be they hated the job.

Or the retirement could be down to lack of opportunity or promotion or the sameness of each day or the horrible bosses or whatever.

But what about those of you who were pensioned off and were doing a good job at the job you loved?

I know there is legislation designed to protect the worker from ageism, but subtle influences can be brought into play.

It could be the work given isn't a challenge - or is too much of a challenge.

"You will always know when you're not wanted," said a woman who hated leaving her job, but felt excluded from decision-making.

Her bosses not only stole her job, but they robbed her confidence too.

There's this thing called 'the package', and some of the time it's take it or leave it.

'The package' doesn't come in the post. Employees are made an offer and it's a 'time to give up work proposal'.

Tom was told by his accountant that 'the package' was geared to suit the financial needs of the employers rather than the workers, but he took it anyway. "I didn't want to work somewhere I wasn't wanted."

I met another 50-plus-Vat man, and he was given a job because of his experience, and it was a big job. The bosses said they needed people who have had life and workplace experience to take their project forward. He was working in Australia. The Ireland of today needs a generation with a memory of mistakes.

There is a sinister side. The 50-plus-Vat worker is sacked and then the company employs someone else at a lower salary.

The financial people may think they are saving money, but let's look at what happened in banking.

The banks decided to increase profits by selling their products more aggressively.

The older bank managers were not considered to be aggressive enough and it was also decided that the senior staff didn't have enough get-up-and-go. The real reason was that the banks knew the 50-plus-Vats wouldn't do their bidding when it came to selling dodgy insurance products, or giving out loans to people who didn't deserve the loans or even need them.

The push to drive profits was relentless. And there was no one to shout stop. The result was catastrophic for our country. And the story still goes on all over corporate Ireland.

I'm all for giving the younger people the chance to move forward, but we need to find a balance. We should look at each and every decision on a case-by-case basis.

The State reinforces ageism: There are age limits for serving on juries, membership of State boards and applying for a driver's licence, to name but a few.

How would you like it if you were excluded from education or training because you were gay? Or because you were a woman?

But the worst of all is when the State takes grandchildren away from their grandparents.

Imagine the pain and utter disbelief you would feel if you had to give up your grandchildren because you had been deemed by the State to be too old to care for them.

Sad and so unjust. Tipperary South TD Mattie McGrath, brought the case to public notice just last week.

Tusla, the body entrusted by the State to decide on child welfare, took a nine-year-old boy away from his loving grandparents, who had cared for the little lad since he was four.

Tusla said there was no issue over the love given by the couple on the family farm in Tipperary.

The grandparents are 60 plus Vat - and they are deemed too old by our State rules to look after their own flesh and blood.

The rule states that if there is 40 years difference in age, then the grandparents will have their grandchild taken away by our so-called caring State.

The boy was happy where he was. The grandparents' case was backed by a child psychologist, the local GP and the school principal. The little boy lived in a country place and one of the reasons given by Tusla was that farms were dangerous places. Another reason was the grandparents might not be physically able to mind the child.

He's nine and all the neighbours are behind the family. The young lad will never be short of playmates.

Every farm is dangerous, irrespective of the parents' ages. The most important need of all is love.

I'm reliably informed there was no shortage of love in South Tipp. This is an outrage.

Mattie McGrath has done us all a great service in highlighting this case. And, by the way, Mattie will be 58 on September 1.

It is time, then, to do away with rigid time and age limits. And if you're a young buck who disagrees with this proposition, be certain the day will surely come when you agree with me.

Irish Independent

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