Sunday 22 July 2018

'Politicians ignore us at their peril,' warns pensioners group

Maureen Fahy, Joan McLoughlin representing Pensioners for Equality, and Justin Moran of Age Action pictured at a meeting on the state pension yesterday
Maureen Fahy, Joan McLoughlin representing Pensioners for Equality, and Justin Moran of Age Action pictured at a meeting on the state pension yesterday
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

People hit by cuts in the State pension will not accept a partial restoration of the reductions.

The warning was issued by a number of groups that have come together to demand that 42,000 people who have reduced State pensions be put on full payments.

Age Action, the IFA, the National Women's Council of Ireland, the Irish Countrywomen's Association, public service trade union Fórsa, Siptu, Active Retirement Ireland, Pensioners for Equality and individuals affected by the 2012 pension cuts are demanding action fast.

Indications from the Government are that the cut, that sees many suffering a €1,500-a-year loss, will be restored this year but back payments will be delayed.

But Joan McLoughlin, of the Pensioners for Equality group, said pensioners would not accept the State using them to balance its books.

She is a founding member of the grassroots group set up to fight for the restoration of the cuts.

She said: "Politicians will ignore us at their peril."

Speaking at a press conference addressed by the various groups and Opposition politicians, she said some Government figures were scaremongering when they claimed it would cost €1bn to fix the issue.

The press conference was told the issue now affects 40,000-plus people, mainly women who took time out of the workplace to rear their families.

Previous estimates put the figure for those affected by the cut at 30,000.

"Are they trying to balance their books off the backs of pensioners? That was tried before in the 1920s and it did not work," she said.

Ms McLoughlin, who runs a guest house in Kildare on her farm, said there were indications that it could be 2020 before the situation is fully rectified.

The problem arises from rate-band changes in 2012 and alterations to the homemaker's scheme. These led to people being denied a full State pension because they had not built up enough contributions during their working life.

Government sources say changing the rules back to full pension rights would cost €70m in 2018 and an extra €10m a year thereafter.

Ms McLoughlin said she was one of thousands forced to give up her public sector job in 1972 because of the marriage bar. She then raised children, and also looked after her parents.

Only from 1994 on did women who took time out of the workforce to raise children get credits for this in terms of pensions contributions.

She subsequently started her own business, but now only gets a State pension of €155 a week, due to being out of the workforce. This means she is down around €4,000 a year. "This is completely unfair. We are being victimised for rearing children in the 1970s," she said. She set up her own business in the early 1990s, but the gap in her contributions has left her with a reduced State pension.

She runs a farm-based guesthouse in Naas, Co Kildare.

Irish Independent

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