Spending on old age social protection is among the lowest in the EU and the Government could well afford to honour a commitment to bring the state pension rate to least 34% of average earnings, a meeting of the Pensions Promise campaign in Cork was told today (Monday, 26th June). At the meeting in the Imperial Hotel, Age Action Senior Public Affairs and Policy Specialist, Nat O’Connor, said: "It is sometimes said that the rate of the state pension is higher in Ireland than in most other EU countries. However, this is a deceptive claim as there is only one tier of state pension here, providing a basic rate for all, with not everyone getting the full rate.  “In every other EU country, there is a second tier, top-up state pension based on previous earnings or contributions in addition to the basic rate. Due to the lack of a second tier, the pension system in Ireland has the third lowest income replacement rate in the EU.” SIPTU Economist, Daniel Higgins, said: “Earnings grow more over time and therefore benchmarking the state pension against earnings will provide older people with a fair share of economic prosperity. Currently, there is an enormous €53-a-week gap in what the Government pays out to people on state contributary pensions and what people would receive if our campaign to have the Government honour its promise to bring the state pension rate to least 34% of average earnings is successful.” Irish Senior Citizens Parliament Membership Development Officer, Niamh Kavanagh, said: "No level of poverty is acceptable, especially for an older person who has no capacity to earn more money to change their circumstances. Ireland has one of the youngest populations in Europe and will still have the sixth youngest population by 2070, according to Eurostat. This means that we will have the economic capacity to fund a decent state pension with a retirement age of 66.” She added: “We approached several older persons who rely on the state pension asking them to come forward and speak about their experience. We were saddened to hear that not one person was willing to admit that they were struggling. There is a sense of shame attached to older persons admitting they are in financial difficulty which needs to be eradicated.” The Pension Promise Campaign will hold the next of its regional meetings in the Galmont Hotel in Galway on Monday 3rd July followed by The Westenra Hotel, Monaghan town, on Friday, 7th July and finally in the Granville Hotel, Waterford, on Monday, 10th July.