river 218 1170x400 - ‘I found myself shouting at the radio’: War of words between Doherty and O’Dea on pension motion

‘I found myself shouting at the radio’: War of words between Doherty and O’Dea on pension motion

The Government looks set to lose a vote in the Dáil.

Updated 10.30am

SOCIAL PROTECTION MINISTER Regina Doherty has hit out at Fianna Fáil as the Government looks set to lose a vote in the Dáíl over the state pension system.

The vote centres around a motion brought by Fianna Fáil which would reinstate a full State pension for those who took time out from work to raise a family prior to 1994. Those people, therefore, paid less tax during their working lives.

Hitting back, Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on employment affairs and social protection Willie O’Dea said that he was “taken aback” by Doherty’s criticisms and called them “reprehensible”.

As things stand, there are around 36,000 pensioners, most of whom are women, who are receiving around €30 less a week compared to most other State pensions.

Sinn Féín is expected to support Fianna Fáíl’s motion.

However, Regina Doherty launched an attack against Fianna Faíl as she appeared on Morning Ireland. Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath had earlier been on the same programme speaking about why his party is putting forward the motion.

Doherty said that the anomaly in the pension system has been known since 2010 – a time when Fianna Fáil was in power. The minister added that she could not guarantee that the problem would be fixed in 2018 – something which Fianna Fáil has called for.

Doherty added that it was also not yet known exactly how much it would cost to rectify the problem. However, she did not hold back on attacking McGrath’s party.

Speaking on Morning Ireland, she said: “There are some 40,000 people who are being treated differently. The system isn’t kind to them. We’ve all recognised this.”

Doherty said that the problem with the pension system wasn’t addressed in Budget 2018 is because the exact amount of money it would cost to fix the system was not known. It is still not known how much it will cost the State.

She added: “Fianna Fáíl can’t be trusted with the economy. The pension system is complex. When you tinker with one thing, another anomaly can spring up somewhere. We’re going to be very careful.”

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke, O’Dea retorted that he wanted to “unequivocally state” that the matter was raised by Fianna Fáil with Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe before the budget.

“I resent Regina Doherty’s remarks that Fianna Fáil can’t be trusted,” the Limerick TD said. “Fianna Fáil has adhered faithfully to the confidence and supply agreement for the past 18 months, often in the teeth of opposition and upset from our supporters who would prefer if we brought down the government.

It ill-behoves a minister who is a beneficiary of that to make a statement like that. I would ask Regina Doherty to reflect on that statement… She was happy enough to trust us to vote her into office and keep her in office for the past 18 months. I would ask the Taoiseach to disassociate himself [from these remarks].

The pension issue was under the spotlight last week when Paschal Donohoe, fresh from announcing his first budget, took a call from a Longford listener on RTÉ’s Sean O’Rourke show.

The caller, Eamon Tynan, said his wife is losing out on €35 a week on her State pension because she had a summer job in the 1960s when she was a secondary school student.

Minister Donohoe described the situation as “bonkers”, though the Taoiseach has since clarified that the minister was referring to the law which forced women to leave the workforce when the got married.

With reporting from Sean Murray

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