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Martin pledges to defer increasing pension age to 67 if FF takes power

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FF leader Micheal Martin

FF leader Micheal Martin

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

FF leader Micheal Martin

The planned increase in the State pension age to 67 will be deferred pending a review if Fianna Fail takes power, Micheal Martin has promised.

Fine Gael has pledged to bring in a new "transition payment" so older people do not have to sign on the dole until they qualify for the pension.

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty said the payment would be a "pensions pathway" but provided no details of the sums involved or the qualifying criteria.

The news comes as the two main parties make desperate bids to hold on to the 'grey vote' and strengthen their appeal to pensioners after being outflanked by Sinn Fein and Labour on the issue.

Age Action Ireland claimed older people were being used as "pawns" in the forthcoming election.

At the moment those who retire at 65 have to sign on for jobseekers' payments until they reach 66. There are long-standing plans to raise this age to 67 next year and 68 in 2028.

Campaigning in Sligo, Mr Martin said the increase to 67 in 2021 would result in a "limbo period" for people that's "not sustainable".

"We would defer that next year. In other words it would not take place next year until a full review of all of the issues around retirement was completed," he added.

Policy

However, last night there appeared to be confusion in the party on its pension age policy.

The Herald asked Fianna Fail how much it would cost to defer the age increase. It released a statement from social protection spokesman Willie O'Dea making no reference to deferring the change until after a review.

He mentioned that a review would take place and outlined how Fianna Fail would reinstate, on an interim basis, the State transition payment to people over 65 who are forced to retire. The cost of this was put at €150m.

In Dublin, Fine Gael minster Ms Doherty said the policy to raise the pension age was "not going to change".

However, she added she had listened to people who said it was not fair that they would have to sign on to the live register after working for decades.

"So we're going to potentially reintroduce a pensions pathway, a new transition payment," Ms Doherty said.

This would not include the habitual residency clause that applies to jobseekers' payments.

"Pensioners who worked all of their lives wouldn't be expected to get jobs if they don't want to," Ms Doherty added.

However, she provided few other details of the proposed scheme other than saying it wouldn't be paid for through the Social Insurance Fund.

She said the full policy would be outlined "towards the end of the week".

Age Action Ireland last night claimed that older people "are being used as pawns" in the election and promises like an extra €5 a week on the pension were being made to "earn votes".

"The reaction by some political parties to the issue being raised on the doorsteps of the Election 2020 campaign is to lay the tracks while the train is moving," a statement said.