Man not entitled to widower’s pension after 20-year-old partner dies because they were unmarried, court hears

The longtime companion of a woman who died of Covid-19 has lost a High Court challenge against the Welfare Minister’s refusal to grant him a widower’s pension.

In his judgment, Judge Mark Heslin said while he had enormous sympathy for John O’Meara – whose partner of over 20 years, Michelle Batey, died on January 31, 2021 from contracting Covid19 – the court had to dismiss their claim.

Mr O’Meara took up the claim alongside his three children and those of his late partner.

In their action, Mr O’Meara and his three minor children alleged that the sections of the Welfare Consolidation Act 2005, which excluded him from receiving the pension, constituted discrimination. He was disqualified from receiving the pension because he was unmarried and had not entered into a formal civil partnership with his late partner,

The action was against the Irish Minister for Social Welfare and the Attorney General.

Mr Justice Heslin said the challenge centered on the constitutionality of parts of the 2005 Act and the rights of the children, through their father Mr O’Meara, to payment.

The judge ruled that they were not entitled to the payment and dismissed their claims that the state’s refusal to make the payment constituted a form of discrimination.

He stated that the legislation concerning who is entitled to the payment of this particular pension is extremely broad, but that it does not apply to people in the applicants’ situation.

It was the role of the Oireachtas to decide exactly who should receive this pension, the judge said, adding that making such decisions “is not a role that this court can legitimately play”.

Cohabitation, he said, was not a qualifying condition for being entitled to the payment.

The payment, the judge also ruled, is not a benefit for a child paid through a parent, nor a payment intended to support families with children.

It is intended, he said, to support a bereaved spouse and is a payment a person is entitled to if they were married to the deceased.

It is, he added, payable whether or not the couple have children.

In their Statement of Opposition, the Respondent States had argued that the Widows Contributory Pension (WCP) payment was intended for persons who entered into a civil partnership and thus entered into a legally recognized relationship which confers rights and obligations to the contractor. the partners.

The law provides for certain supports to be provided to the surviving spouse or civil partner, including assistance to deal with the economic hardship of that loss, the state said. .

Establishing payment is one of the mechanisms by which the state supports the institution of marriage and promotes the legal and social bands that flow from that institution, the state said.

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