Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Social Protection, Willie O’Dea has said Minister Varadkar is channelling his inner Pontius Pilate as he washes his hands of any responsibility for protecting employees’ pension rights.

Deputy O’Dea made his comments following his questioning of the Minister in the Dáil on the issue of defined benefit schemes.

“It is clear that legislation needs to be brought forward to address the situation whereby a profitable company can close down a defined benefit pension scheme whilst the scheme is in deficit to the detriment of existing and deferred pensioners.

“When questioned, the Minister revealed that he intends to sit on his hands on this issue and has no immediate plans to bring forward legislation to protect pensioners in defined benefit schemes.

“Those who are watching this issue will remember that it isn’t so long since the Minister announced he was travelling to the High Court to protect the pensioners. That went nowhere and now that the issue requires the Minister to make some tough decisions, he isn’t interested.

“Fine Gael has a very poor record on private pensions. In the last Dáil, they passed legislation to allow them raid the private pensions of citizens. Now, the Minister refuses to act to protect other private pensioners.

“The Minister gave several excuses including that such legislation may threaten a company’s financial stability, however we have seen very profitable companies wind up defined benefit pension schemes which have left workers with nothing. This situation is simply unacceptable and needs to be addressed.

“Legislation will be brought forward by Fianna Fáil to provide for an appeals mechanism for pensioners whose schemes are being wound up. They must be treated fairly at all costs.

“We must have a regulatory framework that protects private pensioners to ensure that they do not have the rug pulled from underneath them.

“Minister Varadkar may have moved on to other more popular issues, but we are determined to effect real change in the area of private pensions” concluded O’Dea.