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Monday 11 December 2017

Sinead Ryan: If we're planning to raise the age of retirement, then why isn't this woman allowed to work past 65?

Did you hear about the Government's plan to increase the retirement age to 68 too? Oh, I wasn't dreaming then. Thought for a minute I'd just woken up and imagined the whole thing.

You can understand the confusion after hearing about Aoife McCarthy's case where she lost her High Court challenge to enforced retirement at 65 by the HSE.

Once again it smacks of a lack of joined-up thinking, where one arm of the State is making everyone retire later because we have no money to pay for pensions, while on the other it's going to court to force some people to go at 65.

Now Ms McCarthy is a rare soul: she works for the public sector as a radiographer. She's also a qualified barrister, so all in all, you could probably surmise she's an asset to the country. She doesn't think she's over the hill just yet and would like to keep on doing her job.

The State disagrees. 'You're done,' it told her. 'We're finished with you.'

However you and I will have to wait until 68 before we qualify for a pension because them's the new rules, folks. Gas, isn't it?

What is going on here really? Well, it's a battle between a panicked Government running out of cash, and a staid public sector where rules are rules, and the only basis for making decisions seems to be that 'it's always been done this way.'

It's absolutely infuriating, but more than that: it's nonsensical.

Most of us will be griping and moaning about the increase in retirement age. Yet here is a woman who loves her job and wants to keep doing it. She can't, because it would plug up the promotions of others behind her whose sole reason for job elevation might simply be the number of years they've put in rather than any special skills.

Former Assistant Commissioner Martin Donnellan found the same hardened approach when he challenged his retirement age of 60, and also failed.

The State made absolutely no bones about the fact that it was forcing the retirement of an experienced and excellent garda chief because of the anticipated promotions blockage further down the line.

This is simply ludicrous. The rest of us might do a job for 10, 15 or 20 years. You apply for promotions along the way -- you might or might not be successful. C'est la vie.

Nobody in the private sector has a 'right' to a promotion because they've sat at their desk for 10 years. It's ridiculous. Promotions should be based on merit, experience and vacancy alone. Forcing someone at the top to retire so somebody else can 'have a go' is virtually planning for future problems.

We all get the fact that the pensions age has to move up. At present, we're borrowing to pay for public sector wages, never mind pensions, which we pay out of the tax take every year. It's estimated that 50pc of private sector workers have no pension at all and plan to live entirely on the State pension.

Our ratio of tax-payer to pensioner is dwindling alarmingly. It used to be 7:1 and is now closer to 3:1. Other countries like Italy and the UK have responded in exactly the same way. It is the only answer other than cutting public sector numbers -- and don't hold your breath on that one.

We know what needs to be done. But at the same time, waiting until at least 2014 to start isn't a good idea. We need to start yesterday. Allowing people who have reached official retirement age, but who want to continue working (and defer their pension), should be encouraged.

Taking them to court to force them to become a burden on the taxpayer is contrary to common sense. So what if there are rank-and-file civil servants who may not get promoted this year, or next? They can wait, or leave. That's what the rest of us do.

It's time for a bit of cop on. We don't have the luxury for outdated 'traditions' any more.

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