Opposition to raising to 67 the age at which a person can qualify for the State pension has intensified since the start of the General Election campaign, and Labour has pledged its "full support" to the #STOP67 campaign.
The party's Galway West candidate, Cllr Niall McNelis, said it was "simply unacceptable" that people would be "expected to sign for unemployment when they should be retired", and he accused Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil of "sitting on the fence" on this issue.
The pension age increase was agreed by the Fianna Fáil-Green government with the Troika, and passed into law in 2011 by the Fine Gael-Labour government. The phased increase in the age at which people could access the State pension rose to 66 in 2014, and is set to rise to 67 from January 1 2021 and to 68 in January 1 2028.
'It can be stopped now as the country is in a different place than 2011 with more people at work and the Social Insurance Fund is in substantial surplus'
Initially, there was a transition payment for those whose comapnies obliged them to retire at 65, but this was scrapped in 2014. The result was that anyone retiring before the age of 66 has to sign on for job seeker's benefit. However, to qualify for this, it requires that a person is capable of work, and is genuinely seeking work - a problem when many companies are reluctant to hire people at that age.
With 2021 now a year away, the issue has arisen on the doorsteps among voters. Labour has demanded that the rise to 67 be stopped. "Our manifesto for the election explicitly states that Labour will maintain the State pension age at 66," said Cllr McNelis. "It can be stopped now as the country is in a different place than 2011 with more people at work and the Social Insurance Fund is in substantial surplus."