24 June 1999 Edition

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Double standards on pensions


  I feel I have been very badly treated; all the more so when I saw that the Government, who were withholding my pension money were, at the same time granting amnesties.  
This week, the Coalition government in Dublin will rush the Courts Supplemental Provisions Bill through Leinster House. The bill will allow the payment of pensions to former Supreme Court justice Hugh O Flaherty, High Court judge Cyril Kelly, and county registrar Michael Quinlan.

The three will get £40,000, £30,000, and £15,000 annually from the state. Compare the elitist treatment of these three former state officials to 200 people included in a report published last week by the 26-County ombudsman.

The report, titled Lost Pension Arrears, deals with the complaints of 200 people received in the Ombudsman's Office since 1985. All of the complainants were penalised by the Department of Social Community and Family Affairs in that they were denied substantial pension arrears.

The basic issue with these pension arrears is that the Dublin government administration had a deliberate and systematic policy of denying the payment of pension arrears to people who made late claims.

The victims of this cruel practice included widows whose husbands had died and did not know they were entitled to contributory pensions. In other cases, they were pensioners who had made their contributions over the years and did not know the pension entitlements that they were actually entitled to.

One complainant in the report tells how ``I feel I have been very badly treated; all the more so when I saw that the government, who were withholding my pension money were at the same time granting amnesties... My pension is very small compared to the sums involved''.

The highest amount of pension entitlements denied came to £36,000, less than Hugh O'Flaherty will get in one year. The rush that the coalition government is making in providing for the three former officials is in stark contrast to the treatment of the 200 pension claimants.

Pension claimants were only allowed between three and six months of back pension entitlements. The Department of Social Welfare maintained that these guidelines were part of the pension legislation.

However this week the message from the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrat coalition is that when the need arises legislation can be changed to satisfy the needs of just three people. What difference is there between them and the 200 hundred covered in the Ombudsman's report.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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