Between 1974 and 1988 a number of legislative changes were introduced to extend social insurance coverage to members of religious orders.
In 1974, a provision to allow religious congregations to apply to the Minister for Social Welfare for access to social insurance for their members was introduced. While all religious authorities had the opportunity to apply, only the Church of Ireland congregation made the necessary written representations to the Minister for access to social insurance for its members and in 1975, Church of Ireland ministers of religion became insurable as employees for social insurance purposes, in respect of their pastoral employment.
In 1985, there was a further change to the insurability of certain members of religious orders. A provision was introduced to allow ministers of religion engaged in secular (non-pastoral) employments to access social insurance provided the appropriate authority, acting on behalf of its members, made representations to the Minister for such access.
Fundamental changes were made to the social insurance system in 1988. Ministers of religion who were in employment became insurable in the same way as other employed persons while those who were not in an employment but had income were brought into social insurance cover as self-employed contributors.
As the arrangements introduced from 1974 offered an opportunity for bodies acting on behalf of ministers of religion who were in employment to access social insurance cover and as in 1988 self-employed ministers of religion were brought into compulsory social insurance cover with all other self-employed persons and those who were employed became compulsorily insured as employees, it is not possible to disturb the arrangements for such persons at this stage.
I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.