Thursday, February 16, 2012

What a difference a century makes!

One hundred years ago the population of Ireland was 4,390,219 - of which 1,250,531 lived in what is now Northern Ireland. There were 202,810 persons in receipt of old age pension which cost the State £2,588,600 (€3.29 million). This meant that the amount received annually was €16.20.

Today, the population of Ireland is 6,380,269 - of which 1,799,000 live in Northern Ireland. There are 608,825 persons in receipt of old age pensions (contributory, non-contributory, transition) in the two jurisdictions which cost both governments €4,662,442,600. an average of €7,658 per recipient.

pension regulations were austere a century ago and if a pensioner had to be hospitalised his, or her pension was stopped. The Kilkenny County Pension Committee, for example protested against the hardship caused to old age pensioners obliged by illness to go temporarily into the local infirmary or hospital by the stoppage of their pension, under an amendment to Old Age Pensions Act, before the question is entertained by the committee. One typical case of a pensioner who on leaving the infirmary had, through the stoppage of his pension, to return to the workhouse as an ordinary inmate, thus incurring fresh disqualification for the pension, and being thrown unfairly for support on the ratepayers.

Another example of rigour concerned John Wilson, of Knockmanoul, County Fermanagh, who claimed an old age pension in September, 1910, and was recommended by the pension officer for a pension of 3s. a week (€0.15), and that on such recommendation his case was considered by the pension committee of County Fermanagh, who knew his circumstances and the house and locality in which he lived, and who decided that he was entitled to a full pension of 5s (€0.25). But this decision was reversed on appeal by the pension officer against the granting of a higher pension than 3s., when the Local Government Board decided that his yearly means exceeded £31 10s. (€40) and that he was not therefore entitled to any pension. Wilson's only means were £100 (€127) in the bank at 2½%., and his free support and residence in the house of a relative, who is a farmer. The Local Government Board decided that his support and residence in an ordinary farmer's house were valued over £29 10s. (€37.50) a year.

Hiscase was examined by an inspector who concluded that the farm in question comprises 60 acres of land, of which 25 acres were under tillage, and the remainder were being used for grazing. On the farm the inspector found 11 cows, 11 yearlings, 7 calves, 2 horses, 1 foal, 4 pigs, and 100 fowl. The house was deemed a very commodious and neatly furnished residence. The total valuation of the house and land is £86 (€109). Having taken all these circumstances into consideration, in conjunction with the fact that the claimant had £100 standing to his credit in the bank, the Board could not regard him as entitled to any pension.

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