IRELAND - Joe Byrne, chairman of the Irish Association of Pension Funds (IAPF), has warned that pension compulsion could be counter productive.

Speaking at the IAPF's annual dinner party in Dublin last night, Byrne was due to say that a mandatory system might cause resentment among ordinary people and scare away multinationals, hence damaging Irish pensions provision.

Byrne also wants more overall flexibility "by allowing the withdrawal of a percentage of funds for special events such as first-time house purchase."

He called for more innovation, urging the introduction of tax relief at the higher rate for all low earners: "To borrow from the simplicity of the SSIA [special savings incentive accounts] success, this could be as simple as €2 invested for every net, after-tax €1 saved."

Coyle's day job is deputy managing director at actuaries and consultants, Coyle Hamilton Willis and conceded that consultants generally would not favour compulsion. But he told IPE: "I wouldn't have my consultancy hat on when discussing these things."

"If we have compulsion we might need consultants to a lesser extent, but that is certainly not the reason we are coming out against it. We are more worried about the bargain-basement-type pension," said Byrne.

The IAPF argues that once mandatory pensions are introduced there would be great difficulty in unravelling such a system, an there would be an "inevitable trend to bargain-basement contribution levels across all occupational schemes" and insufficient pensions as a result.

IAPF members are responsible for €90bn in assets.