Mothers and grandmothers protest over pension cuts
Pension rights were changed in 2012 leaving thousands of women with reduced state pensions.
A grandmother forced to quit her civil service job in the 1970s because she got married has accused the Government of penalising a generation of women with pension cuts.
Joan McLoughlin from Caragh, Naas, Co Kildare has been denied 21,000 euro so far because of changes made to work-related entitlements in 2012.
“I am one of the classic cases,” said the grandmother of three.
“I was forced to leave because of the marriage bar.
“When I looked for my pension in 2012 I was stunned to see I was going to be cut by 80 euro, because of the fact that I had spent so many years caring for kids, looking after my parents and helping on the farm at home.”
Mrs McLoughlin was among scores of aggrieved women and campaigners who protested outside Leinster House to highlight inequalities in pension reforms.
In 2012 the Fine Gael-Labour coalition government made changes to the system, which has led to reduced rates for women who sacrificed their careers, gave up permanent jobs or were forced to quit work in order to look after their children.
Up to 40,000 people are affected, many of them women.
The cuts are caused by pensions being calculated based on the number of PRSI payments made over a working lifetime and the sums are averaged out.
Mrs McLoughlin said that the changes penalised any woman who took time out of work before the mid-1990s to raise a family.
“For women and men, it’s an inequality issue, it’s unjust and unfair,” Mrs McLoughlin said.
“We are all meant to be equal.”
Dubliners Anna Byrne and her husband Brian were also among those protesting outside the Dail. Both have been affected by the changes and calling for the cuts to be reversed.
The grandmother of four said her pension has been cut by five euro a week.
“It doesn’t sound like a lot but it’s my money,” she said.
“We were the building block for this country – I don’t know how they expect people to live on 150 euro per week.
“We’re doing this for the future generations, my daughter, my sons.”
While the protest was taking place, Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou MacDonald said it was well known how the changes would impact people, particularly women.
She said: “This discrimination did not happen by accident. It was not an oversight or mistake.”
Regina Doherty, Minister for Social Protection, said she was hopeful the issue could be resolved.
“The only reassurance that I can give those people is that I’m going to fight very, very hard to make sure that we address the anomaly as I have said on numerous occasion,” she said.
Justin Moran, Age Action spokesman, said people were being punished for taking time out of the workforce to rear a family.
“It’s something we really need to address for this generation of pensioners, but also for everybody who is retiring tomorrow and the next day, and the next week and the next month,” he said.