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Fine Gael pledges pension transition payment

Proposed changes to the pension age are becoming a key issue in the Irish General Election.

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Regina Doherty (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)

Regina Doherty (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)

Regina Doherty (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)

Fine Gael has promised to introduce a pension transition payment for those who want to retire at 65, meaning they would not have to seek jobseeker’s allowance while waiting for the state pension.

Proposed changes to the pension age are becoming a key issue in the Irish General Election, with parties pledging to lower the age at which people become eligible to receive the state pension.

The qualifying age for the state pension in the Republic of Ireland is 66, having changed from 65 in 2014.

The age is set to increase again, to 67 in 2021, and 68 in 2028.

On Sunday, Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar said leaving the state pension age below 67 would be “irresponsible” and that “reforming makes sense”.

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Leo Varadkar (Niall Carson/PA)

Leo Varadkar (Niall Carson/PA)

PA Wire/PA Images

Leo Varadkar (Niall Carson/PA)

“If pensions are going to be sustainable into the future, we will need to increase the pension age along with life expectancy.”

Fine Gael is proposing to introduce a transition pension or an early retirement pension for those who are contractually required to retire earlier.

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty told reporters on Monday: “People have been telling me that it is not fair that, having worked 30 or 40 years, that some people will be forced to sign on to the live register.

“We recognise that so we are going to reintroduce a pensions pathway or transition payments, that does not have the conditions attached like the jobseeker’s payment to the habitual residency rule, because we know that pensioners want to travel and they should be allowed travel.”

Asked where the money will come from to fund the transitional payment, she said: “The social insurance fund came under incredible pressure during the great recession and I want to make sure that never happens again.

“The total contributions model of how we manage pensions and we calculate pensions will be brought forward and come into play this year.”

Sinn Fein has pledged to stick to its commitment to allow people to retire at 65, while Fianna Fail has said it would seek to outlaw contracts that force people to retire at 65.

Fianna Fail also set out its plans to solve the health crisis, including adding five million home-help hours, doubling the National Treatment Purchase Fund, adding 2,600 more hospital beds and hiring an extra 4,000 nursing staff over five years.

Stephen Donnelly, the party’s health spokesman and a former management consultant in the health sector, called the HSE “dysfunctional” and “failing”.

He pointed to overlap in management structures for rising costs, and said moving to a more regional-based structure under the Slaintecare model would help remedy the issue.

The party is in favour of a universal healthcare system and although there “will always be private healthcare”, it wants to phase out such provision in public hospitals.

On Monday Fine Gael also pledged to introduce free GP care to all children under the age of 18 over the next five years.

The party said all hospital charges will be abolished for children in the budget next year.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said free dental care will be introduced for all under-16s.

There are also plans to introduce baby boxes, containing clothes, blankets, nappies and other items.

Fine Gael said it is sticking with making Brexit a key part of its re-election strategy, despite a poll published on Saturday showing a 12-point drop in support for the party.

Speaking to reporters in Dublin on Monday, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said: “I have emphasised again and again that in order to deliver all of the proposals we have set out, and in order to continue with the work we have been doing in Government, then we need an economy that is healthy and is growing.

“In order to ensure we have an economy that continues to grow, we do need a deal on Brexit.

“In all of the engagement I have been having on doorsteps – and I was out in Stoneybatter last night myself – I am continuing to get acknowledgement from voters that Brexit has not gone away. It is in the background.”

PA