The Government excluded over-66s who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus crisis from the €350-a-week emergency unemployment payment due to legal advice that all pensioners would have to be paid the same sum.
he explanation for the denial of the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (Covid-19 PUP) was provided by junior minister Ciarán Cannon to one family who were affected.
Christy and Mary Ruane, of Glentane, Co Galway, had to close their family pub due to the coronavirus restrictions.
Left with the their State pension as income, they have had to dip into savings to meet ongoing bills related to their business.
The State Pension of around €240 a week is €100 less than the Covid-19 PUP.
The Ruanes are among several people in the over-66 age group who raised the issue with Independent TD Denis Naughten, who has been at the forefront of highlighting the exclusion of older workers as "totally unacceptable".
Their son Shane also contacted local junior minister Mr Cannon.
The Fine Gael minister sympathised with their situation. But he responded saying he had consulted with Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty and over-66s were left out of the scheme for two reasons.
Firstly they already had access to an income in the form of the State pension. Secondly, he also said that the legal advice to Ms Doherty was that if the €350-a-week payment was extended to over-66s, it would have to be extended to every pensioner, which was not affordable.
So far the Government has given no indication that it is willing to budge on the issue. That is despite a series of TDs raising the issue in the Dáil on Thursday. Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary was among those who highlighted the issue, saying such workers "want their incomes to be brought up to €350 and are willing and want to go back to work as soon as possible".
Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall argued that the situation was "very unfair" and said the State pension should be topped up to €350 for such workers.
Independent TD Michael Collins asked: "Why are the people over the age of 66 who worked hard all their lives and continue to work hard beyond the retirement age being penalised?"
The Department of Social Protection did not respond directly to Mr Cannon's explanation for why the over-66s were excluded.
It defended the level of the State pension, saying analysis from the EU and others has shown that older people in Ireland are less at risk of poverty than any other group.
A statement said pensioners also had automatic access to other income supports not available to unemployed people, including the Fuel Allowance, free travel and the free TV licence.
It also pointed out that the over-66s were not required to pay PRSI contributions.
It said the over-66s were entitled to be paid under the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme if their employers were signed up to it. It said the payment rate for a two-person household on the State contributory pension was €470.80 and for the non-contributory pension was €393.60. "Therefore, compared like for like, two-person pensioner households are still receiving a higher income support than the rate of a single-earner, two-person household, under the Covid payment," it said.