October 20th, 1908


FROM THE ARCHIVES:Some people aged more than 10 years between the census of 1901 and that of 1911 because of the introduction of the old age pension in the United Kingdom from January 1909. The number of claimants in Ireland was proportionally higher than elsewhere in UK, as this editorial sought to explain at the time. – JOE JOYCE

THE CHANCELLOR of the Exchequer [David Lloyd-George] announces that the total number of claims for old age pensions received by the Pensions Officers up to October 10 amounted to 468,164.

It is interesting to observe that of this number 273,862 come from England, 131,610 from Ireland, 49,077 from Scotland, and 13,615 from Wales. The first point which will attract attention is the remarkably large number of claims from Ireland. England, with a population in round numbers of thirty-two millions, has a little more than double the number of claims which come from Ireland [. . . ]though her population is eight times as great as our own.

Ireland, with a population less than that of Scotland by some two hundred and fifty thousand souls, nevertheless has a more than two and a half times larger number of claimants. The population of Ireland is something a little over double the population of Wales, and yet our old age pensions folk outnumber their Welsh contemporaries by more than nine to one. What is the explanation of this remarkable disparity?

We think ... the Irish are a longer-lived race than the English, the Scottish, or the Welsh. But this fact alone would hardly explain the feature upon which we are commenting. There is greater poverty in Ireland than there is across the Channel. But even the most humble of our countrymen and countrywomen are proud, and they resolutely decline to enter the workhouse. In place of taking shelter in the Union [ie workhouse], as do the indigent and aged of Great Britain, our poor spend the evening of their days in surroundings with which they have been familiar from their early youth. In no country in the world is the sense of filial responsibility more marked than it is in Ireland, and but for this trait in our national character hundreds of those now qualified for old age pensions would in all likelihood have been debarred, through entering the workhouse. [ . . . ]The Irish are a keener witted race than the English, Scottish, or Welsh. They have been quick to appreciate the benefits conferred by the Old Age Pensions Act, and they have, no doubt, contrived to lodge their claims ... In England the respectable poor are eligible for election to alms houses, which constitute one of the leading characteristics in the more important towns and villages.

We have nothing of that sort in Ireland, and there is no half-way house between the Union and the country hovel. [ . . . ]If the present ratio between our claims and those of Great Britain stand it will establish one contention – namely, that there is more real poverty in Ireland than in any of the other parts of the United Kingdom.