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The pensions time bomb

De Facto

De Facto
Liamy MacNally

It’s a classic case of do as I say and not what I do. In other words, ‘We’re in charge, not you!’. That’s how the Government (and previous administrations) deal with pensions for regular people – one law for people and another (lucrative) one for politicians.
Too often and for too long we have seen retiring politicians ride off into the sunset weighed down with their pension saddlebags while clutching a golden handshake.
Up to 2004, politicians could retire at 50! Now it has gone to 65. Most people have to wait until they are 67, or 68 after 2028 – but not politicians. People who have to contractually retire at 65 face the discomfort of having to ‘sign on’ for Jobseekers’ Allowance after a lifetime spent working. They are means tested and they have to ‘prove’ that they are actively seeking employment.
This income will be the sole income for more than half of the retiring workforce, according to CSO figures. It is humiliating for many people, and all because politicians make laws that don’t affect them. And the difference between the pension and Jobseekers means people will be out of pocket by around €2,350 per annum.   
Politicians have been running around like the proverbial fly with a certain part of his anatomy tangled up in blue since the pension fiasco received a very public airing of late. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have proposed various ‘solutions’, from outlawing mandatory retirement at 65 to introducing an interim pension payment. Deck chairs and Titanic come to mind!
In 2010, the then Fianna Fáil-led government was wearing the Troika coat of many colours. They agreed to raise the pension age from 65 to 66 from 2014, 67 in 2021 and 68 in 2028. They didn’t get around to enacting the legislation. Not to worry, the Fine Gael and Labour coalition of 2011 introduced the required legislation. And sure why wouldn’t they; it wouldn’t affect them.
Now the major parties are seeking to back pedal at a rate of knots. The ‘It wasn’t me’ banners are being held high. Many people are saying, ‘A plague on all your houses!’. Meanwhile, Sinn Féin claims that it will put the pension age back to 65.
The unions are now in on the act. ‘Wholly unacceptable’ is how the Irish Congress of Trade Unions describes raising the pension age. With the STOP 67 campaign, Siptu, the largest union, has joined with the National Women’s Council of Ireland, Age Action Ireland and Active Retirement Ireland to oppose raising the pension age. Siptu’s deputy general secretary, Ethel Buckely, said it was an ‘absolute farce’ to means test retirees who have to seek Jobseekers.
When all is said and done it goes to show how out of touch politicians are. Who is checking their allowances? Do they really think it is acceptable to constantly belittle people by their actions? Was it acceptable that they could draw down mobile-phone roaming expenses for years after such charges were removed? Why was this money paid out if it no longer applies? If it happened to someone on social welfare certain government ministers would try to use it as a photo opportunity. Some politicians love the ‘gotcha’ mentality.
Politicians already get paid to ‘clock in’ to work, even if they subsequently disappear. What other allowances are on their books that would make the rest us laugh in disbelief? If you want to get depressed about politicians’ allowances check out the government website! It will give you a guide rather than a complete breakdown of all allowances.
Imagine an annual travel and accommodation allowance of €9,000 for a TD who lives less than 25km from the Dáil, and up to €25,295 for someone living less than 60km! And there’s the PRA – public representation allowance – for a constituency office of over €20k per annum. You can also avail of €8k to set up the office. Sure you couldn’t make it up! This is fairytale country.
An election is people’s opportunity for change. The reality is that change only happens if voters change. Politicians used to tell us Ireland was a pensions time bomb. They were right, but for the wrong reasons.