asked the Minister for Social Welfare if, in view of the fact that there is no home in County Donegal for the aged, corresponding to the Nazareth House, Derry, and in view of the fact that a number of old people from County Donegal have now become inmates of Nazareth House. he will arrange to have the old age pension paid to those people who are entitled to it while they continue to remain inmates of that house.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - County Donegal Old Age Pensioners.
I am aware that the Donegal County Council has submitted proposals to improve the County Home at Stranorlar to accommodate 267 aged and infirm patients, and to bring it up to modern standards as recommended in the Government's White Paper on Reconstruction and Improvement of County Homes, published in 1951. When the reconstruction scheme is completed, I do not doubt that there will be sufficient accommodation within the county for the old people who require it.
The provisions of the Old Age Pensions Acts preclude payment of pensions to persons outside the State, other than to those widows whose title to old age pensions is derived from insurance of their deceased husbands. I am not in a position to arrange for payment to other persons from County Donegal who have gone to stay in the Nazareth House, Derry. If any of these should return it would, however, be open to them to apply to the local social welfare officer for restoration of their pensions, and for payment of any arrears (not exceeding three months) accrued during their absence.
Does the Minister not consider it a shame that these aged people who can find no home in County Donegal are deprived of their old age pensions simply because they go to the only alternative home across the Border in County Derry? Will he not reconsider his decision and pay them the old age pension while we are waiting for the renovation of the existing county home?
I am precluded by law from doing it.
Can we not amend the law?
If it is considered wise it can be amended.
Surely the Minister would have discretion to determine that if such old people going to reside in the Nazareth Home perennially revisit County Donegal they would not be deemed to have moved their domicile at all? Surely that is within his discretion.
If these old people come home and spend a day with their relatives in Donegal, would it not be fair to say that though they were abiding in Derry they had not abandoned their domicile in Donegal?
That is a legal question and one which I cannot answer across the floor.
Perhaps the Minister would consider that?
If it could be examined.