How it all began

In the late 1960's, as the evolution of funded pension arrangements in Ireland started to gather pace, a number of us involved in the management and administration of schemes met initially through attendance at annual conferences of the National Association of Pension Funds in the UK. It was from contacts and friendships made during these visits that the idea of forming our own Irish Association emanated. Contacts continued at home, commencing in 1970, but the drafting of a constitution for the proposed Association proved to be a lengthy process. So it was not until 21 March 1973 that a group met in the offices of the Construction Industry Federation in Leeson Park to elect a Committee, to consider a draft constitution and to plan future strategy.

The members of that first committee were John Sedgwick (Chairman), Leslie Andrews, Paddy Early, Gerry Langford, Brian Reddin, Tom Reynolds and Louis Slater with Pat O'Riada acting as Hon. Secretary. Pat O'Riada and John O'Sullivan were subsequently co-opted to the Committee, with Paddy Gallagher joining later in the year. That first meeting back in 1973 went on to discuss the possible establishment of a state wage related scheme and the implications for Irish pension funds of the introduction of the Pensions Act in the UK. The aims of the new association were firstly to widen its membership, then to establish regular contacts with relevant Government Departments and to hold meetings of members at which significant topics would be considered and debated. The first such meeting took place in the Shelbourne hotel in the afternoon of 23 May 1973 when George Ross Goobey, President of the NAPF delivered his views on 'Investment Today!'. The meeting was preceded by luncheon at which members of the committee met Mr Ross Goobey. As the finances of the Association were rather fragile, it was agreed beforehand that committee members would bear expenses of £4.00.

Meeting with Government Departments (Social Welfare, Finance and Industry and Commerce) commenced during 1973 and the Associations first Annual Luncheon was held in the New Jury's Hotel on 14 November 1973 when Mr Richie Ryan TD. Minister for Finance spoke on "Trends in Occupational Pensions - the State's Role". Around the same time, in October 1973 a request was received from the Department of Industry and Commerce for a meeting on the question of increased investment by Irish pension funds in this country. The views of the Association on this subject, which have remained consistent over the years were made known through a written submission while further submissions were made on Capital Gains Tax, Annual Wealth Tax and Capital Acquisitions Tax. Thus, the young association was beginning to validate its position as the first point of reference on matters affecting Irish pension schemes and their members. A programme of evening meetings continued, with the cost to members rising from £1 in 1973 to £1.70 in 1976, and then on 6 November 1975 the first Annual Dinner of the Association took place in the Gresham hotel.

The cost on this occasion was £5.00 and the attendance was restricted to 'male members and their male guests and female members and their guests (male or female)". Despite this politically incorrect injunction, the evening attracted some sixty members and guests who heard a paper on the development of state pensions in Ireland delivered by Mr Paddy Cooney TD., Minister for Justice, acting at short notice as stand in for the Minister for Social Welfare, Mr Brendan Corish TD, who was unfortunately detained elsewhere. Membership grew slowly but steadily from 43 in 1973/1974 to 56 in 1975 and 64 in 1976. And, with this expansion, the Association was growing also in standing and self-awareness, as I evidenced by a Committee Minute of June 1976 which expressed satisfaction with the Annual Luncheon held in May but then went on to record a decision that 'when a guest speaker was unavoidably delayed, future luncheons should proceed on time." Sub-Committees were active in those early years dealing with Functions, Taxation, Social Welfare, Transferability/Preservation and Information. As we moved into 1976, the process leading to the publication of the long-awaited Government Green Paper on a 'National Income - Related Pension Scheme' began to gather momentum.

Following consultation with members, a paper on the options for the future development of pensions schemes in Ireland was submitted to the Department of Social Welfare. This was followed by a further submission after publication of the Green Paper in October 1976. And so we had reached and passed the first major milestone in the history of the IAPF. Although the Green Paper never turned to white, it could be said to have been the prelude to a sequence which brought us eventually to the exciting happenings of recent years - the introduction of pensions legislation, formation of the Pensions Board and publication of an extensive range of information for members, trustees and administrators. In all these positive developments, the association had played a strong, central role while continuing to deal with adverse issues such as the controversial levy of 1983 and the recurring themes of pension fund investment in Ireland and the tax status of approved schemes. So as we celebrate our 30th anniversary, those of us who were there at the beginning may be forgiven if we feel a fragment of pride, tinged with nostalgia, and the hope that our work all those years ago contributed in a small way to the present strength and success of a great organisation.

by Louis Slater.
2003

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