Leo Varadkar

Workers prepared to pay price of keeping pension age at 66, says Varadkar

Sinn Fein accused the Government of disrespecting workers by not giving them the option of retiring and claiming the state pension at the age of 65.

THE COST OF keeping the pension age at 66 is a price most workers are prepared to pay, the Taoiseach has insisted.

Leo Varadkar was defending the move to increase PRSI rates over the next five years to bolster the Social Insurance Fund.

Mr Varadkar’s comments came as he was pressed on the issue by Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty during Leaders’ Questions in the Dail.

Mr Doherty accused the Government of disrespecting workers by not giving them the option of retiring and claiming the state pension at the age of 65.

The Sinn Fein TD insisted his party would offer that option if it was in government.

PRSI rates for employers, employees and the self-employed will all incrementally increase under the Government plan.

The rates will increase by 0.1 of a percentage point next year and by the same the following year.

In 2026 and 2027 there will be 0.15 percentage point increases, with a 0.2 uplift in 2028.

“We did take a decision that we wouldn’t raise the pension age beyond 66, other countries are doing that, reflecting the fact that demographics are changing, but we’ve decided not to raise the pension age to 67, and that comes at a cost,” Mr Varadkar told the Dáil.

“And we’ll have to cover that cost by increasing, very gradually, employers, self-employed and employees’ PRSI over the course of the next number of years. And we’ve set out the schedule as to how that will be done.

“With the first increase of 0.1% in October of next year, and in a full year that will cost the average worker about 45 or 50 euros. That is the cost of not raising the pension age. And that is a cost I think that most people will be willing to bear.”

Mr Doherty accused the Government of letting down workers.

“Workers need to know that government will treat them fairly and protect their rights,” he said.

“But let’s be clear this is a government and indeed two parties that actually legislated to increase the retirement age to 68, it was only Sinn Fein and public pressure at the last election that put a stop to that.

“And people have been waiting now for years for the government to outline a very clear road map and hoping that that road map would tell them that they have the right to down tools at the age of 65 if they choose to, but they will be sorely disappointed today.

“Because what this government is telling that brickie, that hairdresser, that waitress is that you don’t have the right to retire at the age of 65. That they have, again, let you down, that this government has fudged their responsibility and they are abandoning workers in this regard.”

Mr Doherty said research had demonstrated that it was possible to put the Social Insurance Fund on a sustainable footing and still provide an option for people to claim a pension at 65.

Mr Varadkar accused Sinn Fein of expressing “phoney” passion on the issue, as he highlighted that the party backed a pension age of 66 in Northern Ireland.

“Sinn Fein voted for the pension age to be 66 in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“Why should people in Northern Ireland have a different retirement age than people in the Republic of Ireland? Is it because there are two Sinn Feins? It just doesn’t make sense.”

In response, Mr Doherty claimed the Taoiseach was embarrassing himself with his comments.

Press Association
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