The Minister of Social and Family Affairs has been accused of engaging in an attack on farm spouses, who had been awarded pensions retrospectively but are now being asked to refund what has been awarded to them by the Department.
The accusations were made by Fine Gael community, rural, and Gaeltacht affairs spokesperson Dep Michael Ring.
“Hundreds of pensioners who have been awarded a contributory State pension in recent years are now being asked at the behest of the Minister to refund the sum of their pensions to the department,” he said. “This is despite the fact that in all cases the Department granted the pension and in many cases demanded a PRSI contribution be paid retrospectively by the applicant.
“This situation arises due to Minister Mary Hanafin reneging on a commitment made to farming organisations which allowed applicants to claim, despite having passed the age threshold of 66 years of age as described in the legislation. In all these cases the department first required applicants to prove that a farm partnership existed and also sought a payment from the applicant to reconcile their PRSI record. This figure often amounted to thousands of euro. The legislation clearly empowers the Minister to ignore the 66 year threshold and award the pension, as has been the case to date,” said an outraged Dep Ring.
“For the Minister to turn around and seek repayment from hundreds of pensioners is nothing less than vulgar and cynical. Fine Gael is formally calling on Minister Hanafin to reverse this appalling decision,” he concluded.