ARCO has made submissions on a wide range of issues coming under its remit. While pension related matters will naturally dominate these submissions, this being the principal focus of the efforts of the organisation, formal submissions have also been made on: National Security Strategy, Ireland’s Foreign Policy and External Relations, and the White Paper on Defence.
Submissions have been made to the Minister of State with Responsibility for Defence, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, the Public Service Pay Commission, the Department of An Taoiseach, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Department of Defence.
The following is a synopsis of the background to the submissions, with links to the submissions themselves.
ARCO’s SUBMISSION – Application of the MSA Increase to Military Pensions in Payment
Arising from the Public Sector Pay Commission, the rate of Military Service Allowance (MSA) was increased w.e.f. 04 July 2019. Following several inquiries, ARCO was eventually advised on 10 December 2019 that the MSA increase would only be reflected in the military pensions of personnel retiring on or after 04 July 2019.
ARCO submitted an interim response to this on 16 December 2019 and wrote to the Minister with Responsibility for Defence on 15 January 2020 (Link to the letter and Link to the associated Annex) advancing the case that the MSA increase should be applied, as appropriate, to the military pensions of Defence Forces personnel who retired prior to 03 July 2019, and to those of eligible spouses or civil partners.
ARCO strongly contends that a decision not to apply the MSA increase to military pensions already in payment would be inconsistent with the Government’s stated policy to: “Support our veterans for the public service and outstanding contribution they have made to the State”.
Arising from a letter from the Minister’s Private Secretary on 18 February 2020, ARCO responded to the Minister of State with Responsibility for Defence on 05 March 2020. In its response ARCO reiterated its strongly held conviction that the MSA increase must retrospectively apply to all military pensions in payment on 03 July 2019.
ARCO also made a comprehensive submission on the matter to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform on 05 March 2020. ARCO strongly maintains that absolutely no grounds exist for not applying the MSA increase to military pensions which were “in payment” on 03 July 2019.
Following discussions with the newly appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence, Mr Simon Coveney TD, ARCO submitted an additional case on 17 July.
As the Public Service Stability Agreement specifically commits the Government to apply indexation (pay parity) to increases in the pre-existing pensions of public servants for the duration of the Agreement (2018 – 2020), appropriate military pensions already in payment on 03 July, 2019 should include the MSA increase.
The decision-making process associated with this issue could benefit from appropriate political intervention.
ARCO’s SUBMISSION – National Security Strategy
Under the auspices of the National Security Analysis Centre, the Government proposes to develop a National Security Strategy. A public consultation process took place from 05 December through 31 December 2019.
Whereas a wide range of security issues falling under the domain of defence are discussed in ARCO’s submission, the format follows the order of the four questions circulated by the National Security Analysis Centre on 05 December:
- Principle Threats (Risks) to Ireland’s National Security,
- National Security Strategic Goals (Objectives),
- Relevance of Traditional National Security Policies and Approaches, and
- Required Strategic Capabilities Approaches (Means).
ARCO’s SUBMISSION – Contributory Pension Scheme for Spouses and Children
The Contributory Pension Scheme for Spouses and Children is a scheme which provides pensions for the spouse and/or dependent children of an officer, or the dependent marital children of an officer who dies in service, or after qualifying for pension.
There are two Contributory Spouses and Children’s Pension Schemes: The Original Scheme and the Revised Scheme. Unlike the Original Scheme, the Revised Scheme includes provision for the spouse of an officer who marries after retirement, for the children of an officer who are born from these marriages and for non-marital children. During 1985 an option to join the Revised Scheme, or remain in the Original Scheme, was made available to officers.
Following on from representations it made to the Department of Defence during 2018, ARCO became aware that procedures have been established by that Department, in conjunction with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, to address cases relating to the eligibility of applicants under the Revised Spouses’ and Children’s Pension Scheme, where the deceased officer was a member of the Original Scheme. Spouses in these circumstances, who have been deemed by the Department of Defence as not qualifying for a pension, may now avail of a new limited appeal process.
ARCO has put an Information Brief on the scheme in place and this provides details of the two schemes in a format that is easy to understand. The brief also contains contact information for those wishing to make enquiries, along with details of the Appeal Mechanism.
ARCO’s SUBMISSION – To Government Ministers on Pension Issues
Having made a comprehensive submission to the Public Service Pay Commission on 03 April 2017, and having published its Strategy on Pension Related Issues on this website in May 2017, the EXCOM of ARCO made submissions to the Minister of State with Responsibility for Defence and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, on 04 May 2017, in which it took the opportunity to advance its position on the following pension related matters:
- the valuation of public servants’ pensions,
- the process of pension restoration under FEMPI,
- the mechanisms associated with pension abatement,
- the determination of pension increases, and
- access to an independent third-party mechanism for pension related issues.
ARCO’s STRATEGY – On Pension Related Issues
In the context of the submission by the Public Service Pay Commission of its report to Government in May 2017, ARCO developed a comprehensive Strategy on pension related issues. The Strategy provides relevant information, outlines ARCO’s position on specific subjects and prescribes the associated implementation process. The objective is to inform ARCO’s membership on evolving pension issues and to provide the EXCOM with material for use in submissions to external stakeholders.
Subjects addressed include: Valuation of Public Service Pensions, Pension Restoration, Pension Abatement, Provision for Pension Increases, and Independent Third-Party Mechanism.
Each section contains relevant information, statistics, and constructive analysis. Within key sections, both the Government’s position and ARCO’s approach to address specific issues are outlined.
ARCO’s SUBMISSION – Public Service Pay Commission
On 18 October 2016, the Government approved the establishment of an independent Public Service Pay Commission to advise it on public service pay. The Commission was tasked with taking account of the superannuation and other benefits that apply in the public service. This will have major implications for future levels of pay in the Public Service and will impact significantly on how pensions are calculated.
On 03 April 2017, ARCO made a substantial submission to the Commission, advancing its concerns on the mechanism used for calculating the value of public service pensions and conveying the Association’s position on the process of pension restoration under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Acts 2009 – 2015. ARCO’s submission also addressed the determination of pension increases, existing pension anomalies, and access to an independent third-party mechanism by retired public servants.
ARCO’s SUBMISSION – Review of Ireland’s Foreign Policy and External Relations
During 2014 the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade undertook a review of Ireland’s foreign policy and external relations. The purpose of the review was to provide an updated statement of Ireland’s foreign policy and to identify a series of recommendations for its conduct. This was undertaken with a view to ensuring the Government was equipped with the right mix of policies and instruments to promote our values and interests in a complex and changing international environment.
The Statement of Strategy already in place at the time, covering the years 2011 to 2014, can be viewed at https://www.dfa.ie/news-and-media/publications/publicationarchive/2012/january/statementofstrategy/ ARCO made a formal written submission on the matter to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
ARCO’s SUBMISSION – White Paper on Defence
On 16 July 2013, the Department of Defence launched its Green Paper on Defence. The aim of the paper was to stimulate debate on Defence Issues and to focus attention on the policy issues the White Paper should address. The consultative process provided the general public and interested bodies with the opportunity of presenting views.
The Executive Committee decided ARCO would make a formal submission on the White Paper and this was submitted to the Department of Defence on 4 October 2013.
The submission consists of six parts: Introduction, Political Dimension, Defence and Security Environment, Military Dimension, Resource Dimension and Conclusions.
Following an invitation from the Department of Defence, ARCO presented a verbal briefing on its submission during the month of December 2013.
ARCO’s SUBMISSION – Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme and Other Provisions) Act 2012
The stated purpose of this Act is to put in place a new single pension scheme for all new entrants to the public service. Among the areas of particular concern for ARCO was the abatement of the military pensions of those who take up certain public sector employment. Early retirement for most officers is compulsory and they must seek out a second career if they are to continue to provide for their families. Other areas of concern include the linking of future pension increases to the Consumer Price Index and the proposal to give the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform complete discretion over when to pay any pension increases.
ARCO made a submission to Mr. Brendan Howlin TD, then Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, expressing its concern at the draft provisions of the Bill and pointing to the detrimental effect these would have on the pension entitlements of its members.
In June 2012 Minister Howlin met a delegation, led by ARCO, where it presented its case. In July 2012 ARCO attended the committee stages of the Bill in the Dail. ARCO’s efforts were successful in having the issue of the Abatement of Pensions clarified, through amendments at the Committee Stage and the accompanying debate. The Bill was enacted in the Dail on 28th July 2012.
The Act imposes a 40-year limit on the total service that can be counted towards pension where a person has been a member of more than one existing public service pension scheme.
The extension of abatement came into effect on 01 November 2012 when the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform signed a commencement order. ARCO was successful in having this section amended so as not to apply retrospectively. It does, however, apply to officers who retired after 01 November 2012 to take up a job in the Public Service.
The provision in the Bill, whereby pension increases may be tied to the Consumer Price Index, remains in place.