Monday 23 September 2019

The downright misogyny of the State makes me furious

'When my first baby was due I cried with happiness - and sadness as I knew there was no choice between my lovely demanding job and a new baby. Either the job or the baby had to go and, of course, it was the job' Stock photo: Getty Images/Blend Images
'When my first baby was due I cried with happiness - and sadness as I knew there was no choice between my lovely demanding job and a new baby. Either the job or the baby had to go and, of course, it was the job' Stock photo: Getty Images/Blend Images

Ann Cahill

Sometimes, it's not nice to be right. I'm afraid I didn't expect the Government and Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe to right the deliberate wrong against mainly women in this week's Budget.

It was just another sign that the State is strongly prejudiced against women - downright misogynistic really. I'm as furious with myself as with those in power because I bought the package all those years ago and tried to be a good citizen, doing everything by the book.

I battled my way to a journalism course that limited its female intake to 25pc; I forfeited a job to the male who did less well in the final exams; I learnt my trade, paid my rent, signed up for more study and put my foot on that ladder to climb high.

When my first baby was due I cried with happiness - and sadness as I knew there was no choice between my lovely demanding job and a new baby. Either the job or the baby had to go and, of course, it was the job. There was no créche and no relatives to look after my son. When my boys were going to school and mortgage interests rates were in double digits, I was happy to create my own job, like the good girl I was.

I duly paid tax with a retired tax inspector filling out the necessary forms and was concerned when in 1988 he told me that social welfare contributions had been introduced for the self-employed.

Fast forward to retirement year. For the previous 19 years I had been a PAYE employee. Everyone warned the system was complex and difficult. As well they might.

I learnt the system was one of 'averaging'. That I earned one credit per week working, so a maximum of 52 in a year. The total number of credits I had was then divided not by the number of years I had worked (40), but by the number of years since I had first worked - which was 47.

Pity those who got jobs at 16 years of age and worked to 66. First I had to find my credits which meant getting on to three decentralised offices around the country.

The civil servants I encountered were professional, kind, understanding and helpful. Politicians really didn't have a clue how it all worked, or perhaps they did but feigned ignorance rather than admit they had been complicit in what is a fraud against citizens.

In the end, admitting my inability to change the averaging system, I set myself the task of finding as many credits as I could to come to an average of 39.5 or even better - 40. That at least would leave me in the second best category with €233.60 a week. I languished at 38 average contributions and so get €214.20, less than those who did not contribute towards their State pension (I know that is means-tested and mine is not).

Had I been able to prove I had paid a contribution in the first year it was introduced for the self-employed - 1988 - that year would have been counted as my first working year, and I would have qualified for a full pension of €238.30. I was asked to produce proof that I had paid that year. From an old desk-top diary that miraculously survived the years, I knew how much I had paid the Revenue that year - but they needed me to produce my 'notice of assessment' for that year.

My efforts to appeal were never going to succeed. The rules said I must produce the proof. What we really need is a law that says 'you must not introduce rules that discriminate'.

But ask the symphysiotomy victims, the Magdalene Laundry ladies, the silent 'angels' graves and they will all tell you that righting wrongs predominantly against women is not high on the Irish agenda. So, no, I'm not surprised the Government is willing to admit the pension situation is wrong - and do nothing about it.

Sometimes, I hate being right.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss