Sinn Féin TD for Louth Ruairí Ó Murchú has said that the government should stop ‘using the fig leaf’ of EU laws to deny people who work in the South but live in the North their entitlements to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment.
The Louth TD said said his office had been inundated with queries from people who work in Dundalk-based companies but live in the North, after the Department of Social Protection denied them the €350 payment. He revealed that Sinn Féin’s newly-appointed MEP, Chris MacManus, is to write to the European Commission to get clarity on the ‘excuse’ of EU regulations being cited by the department which precludes them from paying Northern workers in the same company while the benefit is given to their Southern counterparts.
Deputy Ó Murchú said;
“It is unacceptable that hundreds of people from the North who work in Louth and other border counties, and who have paid their taxes and PRSI like everyone else, are not able to access the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Benefit because they happen to live in the North.
“They are being told to apply for Universal Credit in the North and this is causing serious economic hardship for these workers and their families. This system is not set by Stormont – it is entirely controlled by the British government.
“I, and other Sinn Féin TDs and representatives have been lobbying the government here for the last week seeking change but they have failed to address this appalling situation.
“These people they are refusing to acknowledge now are the same people this State will be relying on to kick-start the economy when this crisis is over, but they are treating them in a discriminatory way.
“In addition to the strong representations we have made to the department, our MEP and government, I have also consulted with lawyers who are trying to find a route to take an action against the State, if there is no movement from the department on this issue.
“A legal action may need to be taken against the government in Dublin because the non-payment to many Northerners may be in breach of their rights as Irish citizens.
“Minister Heather Humphreys stated to me that the government’s view was that EU laws were an obstacle to making this payment, but I believed there was plenty of room for manoeuvre.
“Initial legal advice and the view of people who worked within employment law in the EU is that the domestic government can make this decision.
“The government needs to pay these people and at least consult the European commission and ascertain the Attorney General’s view on this EU obstacle that they perceive.
“This problem needs to be sorted.”