The Labour Party has published a bill to extend welfare supports to cohabiting couples.

It seeks to ensure that surviving cohabitants are not left without pension entitlements following the death of a partner that they had been living with.

"This is completely unfair. It is not acceptable in 2021 that we treat over 150,000 people differently to married couples," the party's leader Alan Kelly told reporters outside Leinster House.

The bill will be introduced in the Seanad tomorrow by Senator Mark Wall.

It was drafted in response to the story of John O'Meara and his late partner of 20 years, Michelle Batey.

Together, they had three children.

After recovering from breast cancer late last year, Michelle contracted Covid-19.

"She got sick. Christmas Day she was very sick and Stephen's morning we had to call the ambulance and after that she ended up in HDU [High Dependency Unit] and eventually in ICU [Intensive Care Unit] on a ventilator," Mr O'Meara explained.

In late January 2021 she passed away.

While John and Michelle had planned on getting married after her cancer battle, they sadly did not get an opportunity to have that wedding before she died.

Mr O'Meara, a self-employed agri-plant contractor, now finds himself with no entitlement to the benefits that a widow or widower would usually receive.

"It was different obviously before. Michelle was there. We had the support of both parents; you have the financial support of both parents....now it's just me on my own and you can be restricted at times", he explained.

Mr O'Meara is supporting the Labour Party's bill. He believes it would "balance" to the situation for unmarried cohabitants.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Damien Peelo, CEO of Treoir, the national federation for unmarried parents, argues that there are already provisions in place to recognise cohabiting couples. This is in response to concerns that such legislation could be open to abuse.

He points to the recent affordable housing acts, which enables cohabiting couples to apply for affordable housing.

"There are systems in place that we already have and that we can rely on to allow us to be sure that people are genuinely cohabiting", he explained.

The issue of entitlements for surviving cohabitants was raised in the Dáil in May.

At the time, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that he would ask Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys to examine whether the issue could be resolved in some way for long-term partners.

Today the Department of Social Protection said that "this issue is the subject of a court case and the Department cannot comment on the legislation or any proposals to change it at this time as the matter is sub judice".

It offered its condolences to Mr O'Meara and his family on the loss of Michelle.