Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak briefly to this important motion on pension equality and fairness. I commend my Sinn Féin colleagues for raising the matter in the House. It is one I have raised many times as it affects a great many of my constituents in Dublin Bay North, especially women. It has been brought to my attention consistently during the years.
I welcome the point made by Sinn Féin in the motion about developing the Social Insurance Fund to provide for a universal pension payment for all men and women. We know that the gender pension gap is now 37% and that just 16% of women are in receipt of the full State contributory pension. This proves that the time women take out of the workforce to care for children is not valued equally by the State. I have previously asked the Minister how much money full-time carers save the State as they are simply not valued and rewarded sufficiently for providing that care. They are further disadvantaged when they reach retirement age. The homemaker scheme was introduced in 1994 to try to address the most blatant inequalities, but it did not work in bringing about equality for women. The Minister has informed me that the estimated cost of backdating the scheme to 1973 is €150 million, or €160 million if backdated to 1953. The State must take full responsibility for the imposition of the marriage bar for so long.
I fully support the National Women’s Council of Ireland in its call, made last week to the Committee on Budgetary Oversight, for the introduction of a universal pension payment. I fully support the calls made in the motion for pension rates and bands to be restored to their pre-September 2012 levels and for the reduction of the number of contributions required from 520 to 260, the number in 2012. I also agree that the State transition pension should be reinstated. The National Women’s Council of Ireland made a submission during the public consultation phase on the universal supplementary retirement savings scheme in June 2015.