Taoiseach Brian Cowen has said there are no immediate plans to increase the existing retirement age for either public or private sector workers.

Mr Cowen was responding to newspaper reports that the Government was considering raising the minimum retirement age.

He said a pension framework document to be published this Wednesday would be a 'very long-term framework', setting out Government thinking on pensions and retirement age.

It will look at the best way to fund future pension requirements in a context where there will be fewer workers and more retired people.

Last month Spain raised its retirement age to 67 for all people born after 1959, as part of measures to combat the crisis in the public finances, while Greece has also raised its retirement age to 61.

Britain will phase in a retirement age of 68 over the next 40 years.

Meanwhile, Bank of Ireland is briefing staff on options to close the €1.5 billion gap in its pension fund - one of the options is a raising of the retirement age to 68 for bank staff.

Protest over farm pensions

A group of farm women who had been staging a sit-in over the withdrawal of their State pension at the Department of Social and Family Affairs called off protest following a meeting tonight with Minister Mary Hanafin.

Ms Hanafin once again expressed an apology on behalf of the Department for the upset and distress caused to the 84 people who had originally been awarded a State Pension in error.

The Minister noted that the cases affected have lodged appeals with the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office, each case will be reviewed individually and a decision made in relation to their particular circumstances.

However, Margaret Healy of the IFA Farm Family committee said their campaign would continue and she called on the Minister to use her powers to re-instate the State contributory pension for all farm spouses.