When plans were drawn up to increase the pension age for most workers to 68, politicians themselves remained largely isolated from the changes. 

The minimum pension age for TDs and Ministers who were public servants before 2004 is 50. Those who came in to office after that are entitled to their Oireachtas or ministerial pension at the age of 65.

It is only those who entered public service after 2013 who will have to wait for as long as the majority of ordinary workers for their pension payments to kick in. 

Meanwhile, most workers, regardless of their years of service, will have to wait until they are 67 and, from 2028, will have to wait until they turn 68 to access the State pension. 

What happens to these workers in the meantime has blown up as an unexpected yet significant issue in the opening days of the General Election campaign.

The main concern centres on workers who are contractually required to retire at 65 but will have a gap of a couple of years before they access the state pension. 

According to the CSO, more than half of workers are solely reliant on this payment as the only source of income when they retire.

Callers have been telling Liveline on RTÉ Radio One that they are being forced to apply for the Jobseekers' Allowance - one of the requirements of which is that they will have to prove they are looking for employment in the meantime.

As well as the humiliation for many of having to sign on and get back in to the job market, they would be left around €45 a week - or €2,350 a year - worse off as a result of getting Jobseekers' Allowance rather than a pension. 

Garry, aged 52, rang Joe Duffy and said that he works in a "safety critical job" and under the new rules would have to drive a large vehicle with people on board when he is 68.

"You don't want to work up until you are 68 years of age then retire and in 12 months or two years, be unfortunate to get sick or pass away. You must have some quality of life as well after working all your life," he said.

"Just because people are living longer, is it fair to make them work longer?" he asked.


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Another caller, Elizabeth, said she only found out by listening to Liveline last week that she would not be getting her pension this year as expected. "Our generation kept our country afloat," she said.

Candidates have reported since last Thursday hearing about the issue from voters when they knock on doors and concede that it is making people angry.

But it is hard to understand how they could not have seen this coming.

The anomaly is a regular subject of parliamentary questions in the Dail and something TDs have been hearing complaints about in their constituency offices. 

So where did this plan come from and who is to blame?

While many of the politicians are running a mile from this pension age change, the truth is that the finger prints of many parties are on it.

In 2007 the then Fianna Fáil minister, Martin Cullen, launched a Green Paper on Pensions which followed a period of public consultation.

It took a further three years before any change was mooted.

With the arrival of the bailout troika in 2010 came the requirement and commitment from the then Fianna Fáil-led government to rise the State pension age to 66 in 2014, 67 in 2021 and 68 in 2028. This was enacted via legislation introduced by the Fine Gael-Labour coalition in 2011.


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The current pension policy is outlined in The Roadmap for Pension Reform which was published in 2018.

But after years in the making, politicians are scrambling to backtrack on it, in the heat of election battle. 

What do they plan to do about it?

Sinn Féin was the first party of this campaign to pledge to change the latest anomaly that is emerging, saying it will bring the age of pension eligibility back to 65.

Fianna Fáil is saying it will outlaw contracts that force workers to retire at 65. 

Fine Gael's position is more nuanced. It says it cannot row back on the change of pension age, but is promising a transition payment to bridge the gap between the retirement at 65 and the State pension being paid. 

Such a payment would not have the same conditions attached as the Jobseekers' Allowance such as having to seek work, or being unable to travel.

"Pensioners have worked all their lives and we won't expect them to get jobs if they don't want to," the Minister for Social Protection, Regina Doherty, said at a press event earlier.

But what about their own pensions?

The difficulty for politicians is that the rules that apply to most of them are out of step with those that apply to their voters.

In recent years there has been a reduction in transparency around the pensions that TDs and Ministers are paid. 

Up until 2016 the details of how much former taoisigh, presidents and ministers are paid in pensions were published as a matter of routine on the Department of Finance website.

That practice ended two years ago with the Department claiming it would be in breach of Data Protection laws and that the right to privacy outweighs the public interest.

There is nothing more emblematic to voters of the detachment of politicians than issues around their pay, perks and pensions.

Expect this one to feature strongly as the campaign goes on.