End gender discrimination: €300m is small price to pay

THERE are certain events in the history of the State that continue to engage, concern, challenge and even shame us.

They include, of course, the connivance between Church and State that facilitated the gross abuse of children. That, at least, has been recognised and addressed — albeit imperfectly — within a system of restitution.

What has been ignored or neglected is an historic anomaly that discriminates overwhelmingly against older women who were forced to leave employment because of the notorious “marriage bar” and who now find themselves without a full pension as a result.

While a scheme introduced in 1994 went a long way to increase the rights of homemakers by making it easier for them to qualify for a contributory state pension, there are still a generation of women who have been forgotten about. They are precluded from the scheme and are either on reduced pensions or do not have enough contributions to qualify for a full rate.

When challenged on this in the Dáil last May, former taoiseach Enda Kenny pointed to the €300m cost of making things right. It looks like Leo Varadkar and his finance minister, Paschal Donohoe, are of similar mind.

Failing to address the issue not only discriminates against these women but fails to recognise their significant contribution to society. €300m is a small price to pay for equality.

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