Civil service 'marriage bar' claim could cost ?200m

Cyril Hardiman

THE taxpayer could face a whopping ?200m increased annual tax bill if former female members of the Civil Service succeed in a discrimination action planned against the State.

Their proposed action centres on the rule that barred women from working on as civil servants after they married.

The bar was lifted in 1973, allowing women to continue working after they married.

Those affected by the pre-1973 ruling have been unfairly treated in that they have not been paid the same pension entitlements as women who were able to continue working after that date.

It is understood that some 80,000 women still only get 80pc of the standard old-age pension of ?200 a week. Another 50,000 get the ?200 non-contributory pension but are now looking to get the full non-contributory payment of ?209 a week.

The country's largest women's group, the National Women's Council of Ireland (NWCI), is fighting the case and says it is prepared to go all the way up to the European Court of Human Rights to win the women's claim.

The NWCI, which represents over 300,000 women in Ireland, picked the eve of International Women's Day on which to announce its intention to pursue legal proceedings against the state. The group is seeking compensation for the women who have been discriminated against by being denied access to the full State contributory pension in their own right.

The Council said it "firmly believes that Irish women will never achieve their full potential and equality while they remain disadvantaged by poverty, violence and exclusion from political life."

The Council has identified "the lingering effects of the pre-1973 civil service marriage bar" as a major discrimination.

A NWCI spokeswoman explained yesterday that a final decision on its threatened legal action would be taken after Seamus Brennan, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, had published his Green Paper on pensions.

This is expected out shortly and the spokeswoman said yesterday that what we do "will depend on what is in the Green Paper".