The surviving spouses of War of Independence veterans received a 50% increase in their pensions from the State last year to commemorate the centenary of the Easter Rising.
The last surviving combatant of the war that took place between 1919 and 1921 died in 2006, but 66 widows were still in receipt of pensions in respect of their army service last year.
The average age of the surviving spouses is 92.
Last year, their monthly pensions increased by 50% to coincide with the centenary of the 1916 Rising.
This increased the total amount paid to 66 veterans’ widows to €489,566, compared to €426,003 shared by 89 recipients during the previous year.
Almost €7.4m has been paid to spouses of War of Independence veterans since 2009, but the number of beneficiaries decreased over that period, from 383 in 2009 to just 66 last year.
The number of living spouses has since fallen to around 50, and the amount earmarked by the Department of Defence for their pension payments in 2017 has been reduced to €400,000.
Pension amounts paid to 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 50% increase saw the average payment rise from around €4,200 to €6,300 per annum last year. The pensions are historically tax-free and are paid in addition to other benefits such as State or private pensions.
A spokesperson for the Department of Defence said the pension increase had been sanctioned to coincide with the centenary of the 1916 Rising.
“The timing of the increase was considered appropriate given the importance of the occasion, and was intended as a small gesture by the State to show its appreciation to these surviving widows,” said the department.
The last time the veterans’ spouses had an increase in their pensions was in 2006 when rates were increased by 50% for the 750 living recipients in the context of the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising.
The last surviving veteran of the War of Independence, Lieutenant Colonel Sean Clancy, died in September 2006 at the age of 105. The Clare-born soldier had been a commanding officer of the Fifth Infantry Battalion and had served alongside Michael Collins. He was at Dublin Castle when Britain handed power to the new Irish Government in 1922.
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