John O’Meara Wins Case for Widow’s Pension for Cohabiting Parents in Supreme Court
Monday January 22nd, 2024
Treoir is thrilled that John O’Meara and his children have won their case for Cohabiting Parents in the Supreme Court.
Cohabiting parents with children are now entitled to the Widow/Widower’s Pension.
“This is a hugely significant moment for recognising the diverse family life we have in Ireland. Most Irish people would have considered Johnny O’Meara and his late partner, Michelle, and their children a family so the Court needed to recognise them. This is one of the families that are expected to be recognised and supported if the upcoming referendum passes” Damien Peelo, CEO of Treoir said.
“In light of this ruling and the upcoming referendum Treoir is calling on the government to urgently introduce legislation on the entitlement to the Widow’s Pension to make reparations to cohabiting couples, with or without children, who have lost a loved one. Grief is grief and marital status doesn’t determine the loss families face and hardship caused.” Damien Peelo said.
John O’Meara and his children took a case against the Department of Social Protection regarding discrimination on the grounds of marital status for the Widow/ Widower’s/ Surviving Civil Partner Pension.
John O’Meara and his late partner, Michelle Batey, had three children and were together for over 20 years. Tragically, Michelle passed away in 2020. Mr O’Meara applied for the Widow/ Widower’s / Surviving Civil Partner pension after her death to help ease the financial burden on his family. The Widow’s Pension, which includes an increase for each child. He was shocked to discover that he was not entitled to the payment because of the couple’s marital status. He contacted Treoir and was supported to take a case with legal representation from FLAC. Until now, if one of them had applied for Jobseeker’s Benefit the couple would have been considered a family who dependent on each other, yet in this incidence, he was not entitled to support from the State because they were not married.
The Supreme Court ruled today in favour of John O’Meara in relation to granting the protections afforded to the marital family to cohabiting couples with children and order the government to introduce legislation to resolve this situation.
Speaking at the Court, John O’Meara stated “I’m absolutely delighted, this was important for myself and my children. This ruling recognises my family as a family and shows we’re not considered ‘less than’ but we’re an equal family”.
Sheila Duffy and Maria Doyle, other cohabitants who were in a similar position have supported John since the beginning and are relieved the Court has recognised this discrimination.
Maria Doyle said “For the people impacted, this is incredibly important. It lets these families know they are valued equally. I don’t think it’s symbolic, it’s very important for the people involved.”
“As Ms Doyle said, this is not a niche issue, there are 150,000 cohabiting couples in Ireland and 75,000 of them have children. This ruling is a brilliant acknowledgement of different families in Ireland, but the upcoming referendum on the family will go a step further.”
“The referendum will enshrine Constitutional protection for these families. Secondly, it will cover not just cohabiting couples with children, but cohabiting couples without children and lone-parent families. Third, it will go beyond the Widow’s Pension to other forms of discrimination that still exist in Ireland today” Damien Peelo stated.
Sheila Duffy who has supported John O’Meara’s case throughout, is one of the families not covered by the ruling as she and her late partner did not have children. “This has been necessary for so many years, for cohabiting couples with or without children. Today he’s getting what he deserved from the State since his partner tragically passed away. John O’Meara and his children have now received fairness.”
In relation to the referendum, John O’Meara strongly echoed the sentiments around the referendum “People need to understand that there’s a massive gap in how families are treated and it’s not just cohabiting couples, lone parent families are also excluded, and a lot of people don’t understand all the differences, so we do need clearer information available. Check the register to make sure can vote.”
“The referendum on expanding the definition of family and removing the ‘women’s place in the home’ article is modernizing our Constitution to reflect the day-to-day reality that is diverse and supportive of anyone doing care work” Damien Peelo said.
For press interviews from Treoir or the parents mentioned in this release, please contact Sinéad Murray, Communications Officer email@example.com / 085 850 4710.