The Supreme Court will on Monday begin hearing a constitutional challenge by a Tipperary widower and his three children to the exclusion of widows, widowers or surviving civil partners from contributory pension schemes.
John O’Meara is taking legal action against the Minister for Social Security over the lack of pension benefits for partners and their survivors if their parents were unmarried. The family is being represented by Free Legal Advice Centers (Flac).
Mr O’Meara claims he applied for the payment on behalf of his family after his partner of more than 20 years, Michelle Batey, died from Covid-19 in 2021. The couple had planned to marry after Ms Bhatti recovered from breast cancer in 2020. He applied for her widow’s pension after her death, but was denied because he was unmarried. He claimed this was discrimination against him and his children.
The High Court dismissed the case in October 2022. Judge Heslin ruled that the law underlying the plan was not unconstitutional and could not frustrate its clear purpose, citing the “special status of marriage in the Constitution,” among other reasons. Enacting laws to support and promote marriage.
He said it was up to the Oireachtas, not the courts, to decide who would benefit from the pension.
He also argued that the payments were not child benefits or payments to support families with children, but rather to support widows who were married to the deceased.
In 2023, the Supreme Court ruled that “the intended appeal raises matters of general public importance” and that “the appeal may require the court to address past precedent related to Article 41.” A jump appeal against the High Court’s decision was accepted on the basis that [concerning the ‘family’]”. The court also stated that “the application of Article 40.1 [the Constitution’s ‘equality guarantee’] The field of social welfare law raises difficult and important questions. ”