Judge Upheld Department of Social Protections Right To Discriminate Against Parents Who Are Not Married To Each Other
Friday 7th of October 2022
John O’Meara, widower and father of three young children, has lost his case against the State following ruling today in favour of the interpretation of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act, 2005, which gives no financial protection for surviving partners, unlike their married counterparts.
Today Mr. Justice Heslin delivered his ruling on the case of John O’Meara who claimed his family were being discriminated against under the Social Welfare Consolidation Act, 2005, which excludes him from claiming the Widower’s Pension after the untimely death of his partner of 20 years, Michelle Batey, who was the mother of their three children.
Justice Heslin, upheld the Departments right to discriminate on the grounds that the couple were not married.
John O’Meara, reacted to the ruling today stating that “naturally I am disappointed for myself and the 3 children with this judgement. I had real hope that our family would be recognised as equal to any other family. I know that Judge was sympathetic and very importantly for us, recognised our family as it is generally understood in our society”.
This case revolved around the issue of the Widow’s , widower’s or surviving civil partner’s contributory pension and John’s claim for the same on behalf of his family after Michelle’s death in 2021. At the time John couldn’t believe that he was refused the pension given that Michelle had been working and contributing throughout life, both as an employee and in her caring role. He felt his children were being denied an important support that he felt his partner had contributed to, with the expectation that her children would be financially secure if she died.
Damien Peelo, CEO of Treoir stated, “This ruling is disappointing but not unexpected given the privilege afforded the family based on marriage within our constitution. We hoped that the Court might have been persuaded to look at this issue from the rights of the children not to be discriminated against based on their parents’ marital status. There will be many families disappointed by this outcome. What the ruling shows is that we need legislative reform that will allow cohabiting couples to benefit from the same supports from the State as their married counterparts”.
John O’Meara, has urged the Dail, Treoir, and other organisations to work together to bring about the necessary legislative changes to protect all family types and not just those based on marriage. “We now must go ahead and really push for the legislative changes. The Labour Party have an Oireachtas Bill ready to go, this could be done by Christmas if the will was there. What better gift could we get” said John.
Treoir will continue to work towards legislative reform to achieve equality for all families in today’s Ireland.
Damien Peelo, CEO of Treoir is available for interview.
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