Gardaí, military, fire and prison staff say they face years without their full pensions after retirement

Coalition of representative bodies seeks Government to re-introduce supplementary pension to bridge gap until State pension age

Gardaí, military, fire and prison service personnel who were employed over the last decade face having to go without a significant proportion of their full pensions for years after they retire, unions and representative bodies have argued.

They claimed that public service pension reforms introduced in 2013 – known as the “single scheme” – will particularly hit those in the uniformed services who have faster-accruing pensions as they retire earlier than other groups on the State payroll.

Trade unions including Siptu and Fórsa as well as the Prison Officers Association, the Representative Association for Commissioned Officers and the Garda Representative Association launched a campaign on Wednesday for the reintroduction of a supplementary pension for such groups.

Geoff McEvoy of Siptu said for most in the public service, their full pension is made up of a combination of their occupation pension and the State pension. He said those with fast accrual pensions – who retire earlier due to the demanding and dangerous nature of their jobs – previously had access to an additional supplementary pension.


“We are asking today of Government and of those who hope to form the next Government, that the 2013 scheme be amended to allow access to the supplementary pension for those who serve in fast accrual services to bridge the gap between retirement age and the State pension age.”

Aisling Buffini who joined Dublin Fire Brigade four years ago as a firefighter/paramedic said she was covered by the 2013 pension scheme.

I’ve also had to start an additional voluntary contribution to try to pre-empt the shortcomings in the single-member scheme

—  Aisling Buffini

“Most days I’m sitting in a fire engine or in an ambulance beside somebody whose pension allows them to be optimistic about their financial security in the future. The unfairness in the single scheme means that I can’t be as optimistic. Because when I retire at 55 I will only get half my pension for the first 11 years of my retirement.”

“I’m two years into a 35-year mortgage. I now have to over pay each month to try to shorten my mortgage term because when I retire I won’t be able to afford to pay a mortgage and bills on my pension as it is.”

“I’ve also had to start an additional voluntary contribution to try to pre-empt the shortcomings in the single-member scheme. I am under financial pressure now to try ensure financial security in the future.”

Conor King, general secretary of the association for military officers, RACO, said it was clear that the 2013 pension arrangements were “a significant barrier to retention”.

He said it cost €1 million to train a bomb disposal officer and a pilot. He argued the Government needed to look at a cost-benefit analysis of reintroducing the supplementary pension as against having to recruit and train replacement personnel.

Unions said that the Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe had told the Dáil recently that staff with fast accrual pensions had the opportunity to get another job on retirement.

The Department of Public Expenditure said on Wednesday that uniformed members of the 2013 pension scheme accrued pension benefits at a faster rate than standard members, in recognition of the fact that they have earlier retirement ages.

“They are paid their single scheme pension immediately upon attaining retirement age.”

It said there was no provision in legislation “for a supplementary payment to be paid to any cohort of single scheme members to compensate for the fact that the State pension (contributory) is not payable until the age of 66.”

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent