I wish to raise the issue of pension discrimination against up to 35,000 pensioners in Ireland, the vast majority of whom - in excess of 23,000 - are women. The Tánaiste will recall that back in 2012 the then Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, introduced the averaging rule in respect of the calculation of a person's entitlement to the State pension. Yesterday, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, participated in the annual phone-in radio programme with Seán O'Rourke on RTÉ and it was quite revealing. He was challenged by a caller from County Longford who outlined his wife's situation. She had entered the work force as a student and then taken a number of years out to be a homemaker and to raise her family. She had also been disbarred from working in the Civil Service because of the State ban on married female civil servants. She is now being financially discriminated against and disadvantaged to the tune of €35 per week, which amounts to almost €1,800 per annum. She is not even entitled to the increase which was announced in the budget. When challenged, the Minister's reply was that he found the situation to be bonkers and unbelievable.
To say that people are outraged at this, as well as at the Minister's reaction and comment, would be an understatement. It is inconceivable that the Minister for Finance would react like that without having anything substantial to offer these people who are being blatantly discriminated against by the State. It is a shameful indictment of the decision made by the Government of the day, to which the Tánaiste, her colleagues and the Labour Party were party.
As a former leading light in the National Women's Council of Ireland, the Tánaiste will have heard its comments and how it has been campaigning and reacting in this regard. Age Action Ireland also lobbied Oireachtas Members on a number of fronts in advance of the budget. My own party, other parties and individual Deputies have been raising this issue in recent years. Apart from platitudes and soundbites from the Minister, such as those he gave yesterday during his interview with Sean O'Rourke when challenged quite succinctly, what exactly do the Tánaiste and the Government intend to do to address this blatant inequality? It is gender-based inequality in the main because it impacts on women, as I have said. It must be borne in mind that many women took time out of the workforce to rear their families, to look after sick relatives or elderly parents and to look after their homemaking responsibilities. Will the Tánaiste outline the Government's intentions for the many thousands of pensioners who are being discriminated against in this fashion, and the women in particular?