Press Release: Treoir Calls on All Parties to Support Bill for Cohabiting Partners
Cohabitating couples must be legislatively entitled to the same rights as their married counterparts, Ireland’s National Federation of Unmarried Parents, Treoir has said. Treoir is calling for cross-party support behind a newly launched Bill that would guarantee these rights and ensure that no one is discriminated against based on their marital status.
The Bill was triggered by Johnny O’Meara’s situation after his long-term partner, Michelle Batey, tragically passed away and he was refused the widower’s pension and the widower’s Bereavement grant of €8,000 provided to the surviving partner.
Johnny O’Meara and Michelle Batey were the parents of three children and had lived together for twenty years. They were paying their mortgage jointly and had worked and paid PRSI all their lives. After recovering from breast cancer, Michelle unfortunately, contracted COVID-19 in December 2020 and died shortly after. As their three children lived with him, Mr O’Meara applied for the widower’s pension and bereavement grant, but both were refused.
Treoir CEO Damien Peelo said:
“Johnny O Meara’s case shows that there is a serious lack of consistency in how cohabiting couples are treated under the law, compared to their married counterparts.”
“You have a situation where cohabiting couples are assessed together to determine whether or not they are eligible to receive the job seekers or carer’s allowance based on their partner’s income. However, if one partner dies, a formerly cohabiting couple is treated differently to their married counterparts when it comes to entitlement to the widow/widower pension.”
“Marital status is one of the nine grounds of identity that Irish law states you cannot be discriminated against. All parties should come together to ensure that cohabiting couple’s status in the law is regularised across government departments. Currently, they are at a disadvantage in relation to not only the widow’s pension, but the inheritance tax, medical cards, and mature students returning to college”.
“This issue affects 150,000 adults with children in Ireland. This is a children’s rights issue under the current legislation as they are losing out based on their parents’ decision not to marry.”
Cohabiting couples with children should no longer be discriminated against based on their marital status. Treoir is calling on the three government parties and the opposition parties to support this Bill when it comes before the Dáil. The coalition also echoes the Citizen’s Assembly’s calls on the Government to hold a referendum on Article 41 of the constitution so that all families are protected under Irish legislation and remove the special position that marital families currently hold.
Contact: Damien Peelo / Sinéad Murray Tel: 0857352959 / 016700120
Note to Editors:
• Damien Peelo is available for media interview.
• A copy of our Pre-Budget 2022 submission is here
Treoir is a federation of 25 organisations advocating for the rights of unmarried parents and their children. Further information is available at: www.treoir.ie or on Twitter, @TREOIR