Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty is currently pondering a recommendation from the Economic and Social Research Institute suggesting that citizens should not get the State pension until they reach the age of 70. This is not the same as saying that people should be ‘allowed’ to choose to continue in employment after retirement age. The suggestion now is that they should be ‘forced’ to continue working whether they can or not.
Let’s ignore the fat cats in the ESRI because those lads and lassies will never have to worry about a State pension. Their nests are well and truly feathered. Instead, let’s look at what qualifies Regina Doherty to determine the lives of the hundreds of thousands of wrinklies out there.
The non-contributory pension rate in Ireland stands at €227 a week or €11,804 a year. The latest statistic on population tell us that 4.7 million people live in this country and of that, 22% are over sixty-five, or 990,000 wrinklies. Just how many of this grey army qualify for a non-contributory pension from the State I don’t know but it must be a lot because we are told that, “The State’s pensions bill is spiralling by €1bn every five years due to our ageing population.”
I have often said that the best form of leadership is by example. So while Regina is pondering this conundrum, she should be thinking how she herself will survive on €227 a week in twenty years time when she qualifies for it. If she decides that older people in the future must face hardship then unless she too is in the same boat, her decision cannot be based on fairness or reality. She could just say to herself, “They’ll be grand.” In a similar vein, it has always struck me as ironic that people who earn well in excess of €100k a year are the ones who decide on the minimum wage for the poorest in society.
Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty became a TD six years ago and was promoted to Minister earlier this year. According to an article in the Irish Times, “A TD who has served at least two years as a minister receives a pension based on service as a TD plus a separate pension based on service as a minister, which are calculated on different criteria.” So if we want to work out Regina’s possible pension rights, “You divide her salary by 40 and then multiply it by the number of years she’ll serve in the Dáil. A cap of 20 years service applies.” For the last six years she has been on €92,672. You’d have to reckon that she will easily remain in the Dail for the next fourteen years either in Government or opposition and if she does, she’ll have a nice little send off for her retirement.
Based on the above, she’ll be looking at €46,336 a year pension not the €11,804 everybody else gets. And on the day she hangs up her, em, TD-ishness, she get a one-off lump sum of €139,008 into her hot little mitts. But hang on lads, she’s also a Minister so the rate goes up even more. “After two years a retiring minister is entitled to a pension equal to 20 per cent of her salary. After three years this becomes 25 per cent, four years 30 per cent, and five years 35 per cent. The maximum entitlement is 60 per cent after 10 years’ service.” You are into Lotto territory here. What it means is that if Regina gets her way and keeps on the right side of Leo, she could look forward to a pension of up to €92,298 when she steps off the gravy train. In the meantime including all the perks of the job she could knock down €1m a year if she claims for everything.
So on her final day at work, she should have several millions in the bank, leave the office with a cheque for €139k and then look forward to a weekly pension payment of €1,775. This then is the woman who will soon decide whether the rest of us must wait to qualify for €227 a week until we are seventy years old. In case you have forgotten, Enda Kenny, earlier this year, received a lump sum payment of €378,000 and has an annual pension of €126,000, or €2,423 a week.
But have no doubt that Regina will decide exactly what Leo wants her to decide so us oldies better get used to the idea of working until we drop. But it truly strikes me as bitterly ironic that a woman who can look forward to a possible €1,775 a week when she turns sixty-five may shortly advise the rest of us that we must wait until seventy for a mere €227. She will never know a poor day, never see anything she cannot budget to have and never feel the pointlessness of nothing in her pockets and several days still to go until the next tiny payment. She will never get an electricity bill she can’t pay or spend days in bed all day in the wintertime to keep warm. She will never have the indignity of a hospital waiting list for an operation or spend hours on an A&E trolly surrounded by other misery.
Regina simply will have no concept of how depressed she will make many feel and one wonders if she really cares.