Kelly: Government discriminating against co-habiting couples

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A Tipperary man is awaiting a ruling from the High Court in his bid to have co-habiting couples entitled to a widows pension.

Johnny O’Meara’s partner of over 20 years Michelle Batey passed away at the end of January last year – the couple had three children.

They had planned to get married once Michelle had recovered from breast cancer but she sadly died after contracting Covid-19.

At the time the Minister for Social Protection refused to grant Johnny the widows pension.

Labour TD Alan Kelly said Johnny’s case shows why the situation needs to be rectified.

“There are 150, 000 co-habiting couples in Ireland. 75,000 at the last Census who have children.

“So really this is a very important test case. They should – like any other couple who are married – be entitled to a widows pension. Obviously in this scenario Johnny wasn’t after his partner Michelle sadly passed away.”

The ruling by the Department of Social Protection was appealed to the High Court on the grounds that it discriminated against couples who were co-habiting but had not married or entered a civil partnership.

Alan Kelly is hopeful the ruling which is due later this year will clear up the situation.

“If you are a couple and you’re together for 20 years – paid your taxes – you’ve done everything together surely if this unfortunate event happens where one passes away well then the state should be treating you the same as everybody else.

“You know, if you’re good enough to pay your taxes down through the years well then you’re good enough to be treated by the state in the appropriate way.

“It’s a complete anomaly – it’s more than an anomaly – it’s discriminatory.”