‘We are not going away’: Kildare woman continues pension inequality campaign

A Co. Kildare woman – who runs a 70ac beef farm with her husband – is highlighting the issue of pension inequality, saying it does not show much appreciation for those who “got up early in the morning”, to quote Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Joan McLoughlin – a member of Pensioners for Equality –  was born and reared on a farm in Caragh, Naas. “From 1964 until 1972, I worked in the Civil Service in Dublin. Because of the marriage ban, I was forced to leave the workforce in May 1972,” she said.

“I returned to farm with my father, build a house and rear three children. My generation cost the government nothing. Children’s Allowance was not paid for the first child and then just 10 shillings (60 cent) for the second child.

We also cared for elderly parents without any payment. We did not expect to be paid for these duties but we had an expectation of getting a pension.

“I became self-employed in the mid ’90s, providing farmhouse accommodation, and paid PRSI,” she said.

“When I applied for my contributory pension, in November 2012, I was stunned to discover that the rate of payment was €150 – a loss of €80 a week. In September 2012, Minister Joan Burton brought in changes that went unnoticed at the time.

“The new contributory pension scheme was based on the number of contributions you had for working over your lifetime. New bands were also introduced. Women who took time out of the workforce to rear children were penalised,” she said.

The ‘Homemaker’s Scheme’ allows women to take time out – up to 20 years – to raise children. However, it only applies to years out of the workforce after 1994. The system was devised by Fianna Fail and introduced by Labour/Fine Gael, so all these parties are guilty.  Around 36,000 people have lost out so far; 22,000 are women.

McLoughlin said she contacted all political parties, the National Women’s Council and Age Action at the time. “Now that numbers have grown, as more people are getting this shocking news, there are more groups involved in lobbying. The ICA (Irish Countrywomen’s Association) is now interested also.

“We are not going away and politicians will ignore us at their peril. It is unjust, unfair and discriminates against women,” she said.

“I would advise farm women of all ages to personally check their situation with the Department of Social Protection. We in Pensioners for Equality want to inform and hopefully protect other women from suffering these drastic cuts.”