Report confirms what we knew: politicians cannot be trusted with pensions

Recommendations for ensuring State pension is sustainable have been dismissed

Pension policy is ill served by Ireland’s politicians. The report by the Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection last week highlighted once again just why.

The committee was examining recommendations to try to ensure the sustainability of Ireland's State pension system put forward last October by a specially appointed Commission on Pensions. Its recommendations had already marked a significant compromise on previous government plans to increase the State pension age to 67 last year and to 68 in 2028.

The commission suggested phasing in those increases over a much longer period and offsetting the adverse financial impact with a package that included broadening the net of PRSI and increasing the relatively low rates – by European standards – at which it is paid, as well as seeking additional exchequer funding of the Social Insurance Fund, the kitty from which State pensions and other benefits are paid.

In short, it delivered the political compromise that all parties of government were seeking after the State pension age became an issue on the doorsteps at the last general election, especially among the “grey vote”.


The decision of the committee across all political parties to effectively dismiss the report and pretend the bill will never fall due is an act of political vandalism.

Entrenched positions

Watching the committee in action during its hearings, it quickly became obvious that if any agreement was to be reached, it would be at the lowest common denominator. Members’ approach in questions to witnesses made it clear that many were coming from entrenched positions, rather than seeking to engage in a positive and constructive manner.

Playing to their own particular audiences is fine – the TDs and Senators can do so knowing their lucrative pensions are secure. Many – particularly women and those in the private sector – who will rely on a viable State pension to avoid penury in retirement don’t have the luxury.

We have not paid for our retirement. We are hoping the next generation will pick up the bill for us. But, in part because we have had fewer children than our parents, there will be fewer to pick up that bill and, as we live longer, the cumulative cost to them will rise.

And so, as we insist on no change, we seem determined to leave behind a State pension system that will offer the next generation none of the security we demand.

We can only hope the Government shows proper political leadership next month when it falls to them to make the final decision.