The Government has been urged to ‘show us the money’ and resolve years of pension discrimination against women, punished for taking time out of work to raise their children.
Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald dismissed Government claims it cannot conjure up the funds to tackle the pensions anomaly.
She demanded ministers take action as women and supporters protested outside the Dáil yesterday.
It also emerged yesterday that a report, outlining how monies could become available, is due before Cabinet next week.
During Leaders’ Questions, Ms McDonald noted the Government was able to “magically” find money for tax cuts and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s strategic communications unit while no extra funding could be secured for the pension problem.
She said the reality is that at least 40,000 people are continuing to be discriminated against by the Government’s failure to address the pensions controversy, with many losing out on €30 every week.
“The Government infamously conjured up €5m to fund a strategic communications unit as the Taoiseach’s vanity project,” she said.
“It was able to find enough financial space to introduce tax cuts which disproportionately benefit the well-off.
“The minister should not hide behind other anomalies or quirks in the system that need to be dealt with or use them as an excuse for not doing right by the people concerned,” she said.
“The Government must show us the money to make this right.”
Responding, Education Minister Richard Bruton said while the issue may appear simple to resolve, there was a need to ensure any changes do not inadvertently create a new anomaly in the pensions system.
He said a report is being examined by a Cabinet finance sub-committee and indicated it may be presented to the Cabinet as early as next week.
“The budget for 2018 has been agreed and I do not have €70m in my pocket, nor does the minister for finance for that matter,” he said.
“We must consider all changes in this area in a balanced manner.
“The minister’s approach has been to bring to Cabinet a detailed report that fully examines the potential knock-on effects of any change in order that a decision can be made on any future changes with the full information available,” said Mr Bruton.
Age Action, the National Women’s Council of Ireland, the Irish Countrywomen’s Association, Fórsa, Siptu, Active Retirement Ireland, and Pensioners for Equality joined in a protest at the gates of Leinster House.
Age Action Ireland spokesman Justin Moran said the 2012 cuts affect some 40,000 pensioners, hitting them for €20 to €30 a week — an issue he said all of the groups involved insist must be addressed.
“These pensioners are being punished for taking time out to raise a family.
“The cut needs to be reversed to stop punishing pensioners who got up early in the morning, long before it became a catchy soundbite, and live their lives in dignity,” said Mr Moran.
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