April 9, 2020
Ruairí Ó Murchú TD rejects calls for citizens in the North to pay back Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Sinn Féin TD for Louth Ruairí Ó Murchú has rejected calls from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection for workers who live in the North to pay back money they received under the Pandemic Unemployment scheme.

It was revealed earlier this week that an unspecified number of people who applied for the €350 payment and who told the Department of Social Protection that they lived in the North, were approved for the payment. However, Department officials are now asking them to return the money.

Deputy Ó Murchú said;

“This is the latest in a line of communication breakdowns from the caretaker government over the last number of weeks. This government has the capacity to find a solution to this problem by working within the legal framework of paying Northern workers. They can obviously get any necessary legal advice or speak to the EU.

“Sinn Féin has been able to do this and we have written to the European Commission about it. Our advice is that the State can pay these people.

“However now we have a situation where the department of Social Protection is telling Northern workers to return the money as it was given in error, while the government stalls on doing the right thing and just opening the scheme to workers who live in the North.

“A case is being taken by a worker in the North against the State about the constitutionality of their refusal to grant the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, with the government expected to respond to the claimant’s legal firm on Friday April 17th.

“These people have paid their tax and PRSI in this State for years, for very little in return. Now, when they need help, the government cannot turn their back on them.

“These are the same workers the State will be relying on to go back to work to get the country up and running again after this crisis.

“Minister Doherty would be better served sorting out this anomaly once and for all, rather than trying to get the money back.

“My office has been inundated with dozens of queries every day from people who are unsure about the supports they can avail of.

“The government needs to facilitate greater communication at this time. There has to be a better way of ensuring confidence between our communities and the State is maintained.

“If, as they say, we are ‘all in this together’ there needs to be far clearer information sharing with all political parties so issues are better dealt with.”

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