Tuesday 15 October 2019

Forty-one widows of War of Independence veterans still get pension payments

Historic: Sean Clancy, the last surviving veteran, who died in 2006, inspects a Fifth Battalion guard of honour on his 100th birthday in 2001. Picture: Maxpix
Historic: Sean Clancy, the last surviving veteran, who died in 2006, inspects a Fifth Battalion guard of honour on his 100th birthday in 2001. Picture: Maxpix

Darragh McDonagh

The widows of War of Independence veterans have received almost €8m in pension payments from the State in the past 10 years, new figures have revealed.

The last surviving combatant of the war, which took place between 1919 and 1921, died in 2006, but 41 widows were still receiving pensions at the end of last year as a result of their husbands' Army service.

The recipients, whose average age is around 92, were paid €262,507 in tax-free pensions during 2018. This reflected a 50pc increase in 2016 to mark the centenary of the Easter Rising.

Pension amounts paid to the veterans' widows vary depending on a number of factors, such as whether their husbands were medal holders or if they had been in receipt of a special allowance before they died.

However, the 50pc increase in 2016 saw the average annual payment rise from €4,200 to €6,300.

The pensions are historically tax-free, and are paid in addition to other benefits such as State or private pensions.

The number of living widows of War of Independence veterans has fallen sharply in recent years. In 2009, a total of 383 beneficiaries received more than €1.7m in pension payments. The number had fallen to 121 in 2014.

Seven of the remaining War of Independence widows died last year, leaving only 41 in receipt of the pension.

The last surviving veteran of the war, Lieutenant Colonel Sean Clancy, died in September 2006 at the age of 105.

The Co Clare-born soldier had been a commanding officer with the Fifth Infantry Battalion, and had served alongside Michael Collins.

He was in Dublin Castle when Britain handed power to the new Irish Government in 1922.

Last year, the cost of paying pensions to former military personnel and their dependants increased by almost €4.6m to €225.4m, as 154 servicemen joined the ranks of retired veterans.

Some €2bn has been paid out to former Defence Forces personnel plus their dependents under the pension scheme since 2009, according to official figures provided by the Department of Defence.

Irish Independent

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