FLAC appears before Oireachtas Committee to discuss legislation to implement the landmark Supreme Court decision in O’Meara

2 July 2024

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  • Legislation will make social welfare payments for bereaved people and their families available to cohabitants and their children.
  • FLAC (which represented the O’Meara family) welcomes this but is concerned about “levelling down” of the entitlements of other bereaved families.

FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) has appeared before the Oireachtas Social Protection Committee to offer its analysis of the General Scheme of the Social Welfare (Bereaved Partner’s Pension) Bill 2024 (which is currently undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny).

FLAC, an independent human rights and equality organisation, represented John O’Meara and his children in their successful legal challenge against their exclusion from the Widower’s Pension scheme. The family applied for the payment after the death of Mr O’Meara’s partner of almost 20 years and mother of their three children, Ms Michelle Batey.

In her opening statement to the Committee, Sinéad Lucey (FLAC Managing Solicitor) stated that FLAC welcomes the legislation which “gives effect to the O’Meara judgment by expanding entitlement to social welfare schemes aimed at bereaved partners and families to qualified cohabitants and their children”.

However, FLAC also expressed concerns about provisions in the draft legislation which would prevent certain families from accessing social welfare payments after a bereavement. Ms Lucey added:

“At present, people who are separated or divorced from a spouse or civil partner may access a survivor’s pension if that spouse or civil partner dies, provided that they (the surviving partner) have not remarried and are not cohabiting with someone else. The General Scheme would remove this entitlement... There is no clear rationale for this change and it may run contrary to the principles underpinning the O’Meara decision… We do not see any objective justification for the introduction of legislation which distinguishes between the children of separated or divorced parents and children whose parents were married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting.”

In its submission to the Committee, FLAC made a number of recommendations for ensuring that the new legislation does not reduce any families’ entitlement to a survivor’s pension. It also highlighted the need for:

  • Further information from the Department of Social Protection on the entitlement of cohabitants who were previously unable to access survivor’s pensions to arrears of the payment.
  • A “take-up” campaign to ensure all families who benefit from the changes are made aware of their new entitlements.


Notes to Editors:

FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is an independent human rights and equality organisation, which exists to promote access to justice. As an Independent Law Centre, FLAC takes on a number of cases in the public interest each year and operates a Traveller Legal Service, Roma Legal Clinic and LGBTQI Legal Service. FLAC also operates a legal information and referral telephone line and a nationwide network of legal advice clinics where volunteer lawyers provide basic free legal advice.

More detail about the O’Meara decision (and FLAC’s response to it) is available here.

Sinéad Lucey’s opening statement to the Committee may be accessed here.

FLAC’s written submission to the Committee may be accessed here: