I want to read a quote to the Taoiseach:
Under our proposals, people aged 65 will receive a State pension...which will be paid at the same rate as the State pension of €248 per week. This payment will not be means tested but entitlement will be based on an individual's employment record. In contrast Fine Gael will only pay those who are 65 a payment of €203 per week, which will result in an annual loss of €2,340 for this age group.
Those words should sound very familiar to the Taoiseach because they are, as he knows, an official Fianna Fáil statement made by Deputy Willie O'Dea, when he was the party's spokesperson on social protection, three days before last year's general election. The Taoiseach knew at that time the strength of public feeling as regards the right to a State pension for workers when they reach the age of 65 but he seems to have forgotten that in the meantime, because his Government's announcement on the State pension on Monday was exactly what Fine Gael proposed in the course of that election 12 months ago.
Only enormous public pressure has stopped the Government from raising the pension age to 67 for now, and it is not restoring the State pension (transition) payments, as it promised. The Government will continue to pay 65-year-olds what is, in effect, a jobseeker’s payment of only €203 per week, which is a loss of €45 a week, a loss, as the Taoiseach knows, of more than €2,000 a year when compared with the State pension. This cohort of workers also stands to lose out on a range of secondary benefits, including fuel allowance, as the Taoiseach well knows.
In summary, the Taoiseach has adopted the Fine Gael policy, hook, line and sinker and this is a real blow for 65-year-olds, who will rely on a decent pension to get by. The lack of fairness, the lack of respect, is absolutely breath-taking, particularly in these times when people are under such enormous pressure.
The Taoiseach should know that, by the age of 65, workers will have worked hard, paid their way, paid their bills, provided for their families and paid their taxes to this State. Many of those who now look for their pension entitlement at the age of 65 may have begun their working lives at the age of 14 or 15. They have more than paid their way. Many more have spent their working lives on their feet in very physical jobs in factories, on building sites and in retail. By the time they reach the age of 65, they are entitled to this because they have earned the respect and entitlement of their pension, should they wish to retire.
The Taoiseach's failure in this now means that many 65-year-olds who may wish to retire will have to continue working. Many will head back to their places of work, even in these very difficult and treacherous times. I recognise there are those who would wish to work beyond the age of 65 and, of course, that right must be upheld, but it is wrong that, at the age of 65, those who wish to retire are forced out the door to work because they cannot afford to retire, because the State and the Government do not respect their working lives.
This is actually very straightforward. The Taoiseach is either for the right to a State pension at the age of 65 or he is not. Will he confirm that, under his plan, 65-year-olds will be out of pocket by €45 per week? How on earth does he stand over this, particularly given his election commitments?