'State shouldn’t prioritise relationship between married couple over cohabiting couple': Cork councillor 

"The State shouldn’t prioritise the relationship between a married couple over that of a cohabiting couple," Cllr John Maher said.
'State shouldn’t prioritise relationship between married couple over cohabiting couple': Cork councillor 

CORK city councillor John Maher has called for support for a Labour Party bill that would change the law so that a surviving cohabitant is eligible for a widow or widower’s contributory pension, saying that "the concept of family has changed and it's time to bring Ireland into the 21st century". Picture Denis Minihane.

CORK city councillor John Maher has called for support for a Labour Party bill that would change the law so that a surviving cohabitant is eligible for a widow or widower’s contributory pension, saying that "the concept of family has changed and it's time to bring Ireland into the 21st century". 

The Labour Party councillor, who represents the city’s north-east ward, is encouraging people to write to their local TDs to support the bill.

"This issue is experienced by a huge number of people in Ireland. 

"The 2016 census showed that there are over 75,000 cohabiting couples in Ireland with child dependents – a figure that is likely to be even greater at the next census," he said.

"If a couple is cohabiting the Department of Social Protection will assess both of their means when carrying out a means test for a social assistance payment like jobseekers allowance or carer’s allowance. 

"It doesn’t provide any guarantee to contributory social protection payments like the widowers’ pension when one of them dies," Mr Maher continued. 

He added that cohabiting also has an impact on lots of State supports, not just social welfare payments.

Mr Maher pointed to inconsistencies in the legislation, stating that the recent Affordable Housing Acts provides for equal treatment for cohabiting couples to qualify for the purchase of an affordable dwelling if they plan to live together.

"Cohabitation is recognised for some laws but not for others," he said.

"The State shouldn’t prioritise the relationship between a married couple over that of a cohabiting couple. 

"There is a huge gap in our social protection system and it’s time to act to change it."

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