| 11°C Dublin

PUP cut can be shelved if virus crisis remains ongoing in January – Leo Varadkar

Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty has urged the Government to reverse reductions already made to the unemployment support payment.

Close

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said there is flexibility in the Budget to avoid a PUP cut (Niall Carson/PA)

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said there is flexibility in the Budget to avoid a PUP cut (Niall Carson/PA)

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said there is flexibility in the Budget to avoid a PUP cut (Niall Carson/PA)

The Government may not reduce the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) as planned at the end of January if the country is still in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, the Dail has heard.

Leo Varadkar said the Government will keep any potential further reductions “under review”.

He said: “We have set aside contingency funds in the Budget to allow us to extend that January deadline if we’re still in the teeth of the pandemic then.

“That flexibility is open to us and we will give that consideration.”

People in any part of Ireland should not take any comfort from the fact that the rules are stricter in those three counties. This virus is circulating in the community in every county in IrelandLeo Varadkar

The Tanaiste was responding to a call from Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty during Leaders’ Questions on Thursday to reverse cuts already made to the payment.

Mr Doherty said further job losses are inevitable because of Level 4 restrictions being introduced in the counties of Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal, and he warned people will only get through the economic impact of the pandemic with support.

He added: “The public health restrictions create huge difficulties for our people but we can get through this – but only if the support is there to help people through it.

He said Sinn Fein had warned the Government last month that cuts to the PUP were “premature and short sighted”, and he questioned the logic of reducing the PUP in January and April in the midst of the pandemic.

“You know that this virus has not gone away, it’ll remain with us unfortunately for a while, it’ll be here at the end of Jan and in April, and as long as that’s the case the threat to job losses remains – so it’s crucial that workers and families have certainty that their incomes will not fall off a cliff,” he said.

Mr Doherty urged the Government to provide further guidance around the restrictions on household visits, in particular about the grounds for compassionate visits.

Close

Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty said people can get through the virus crisis, but only with appropriate support (Niall Carson/PA)

Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty said people can get through the virus crisis, but only with appropriate support (Niall Carson/PA)

PA

Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty said people can get through the virus crisis, but only with appropriate support (Niall Carson/PA)

“I know the restrictions placed on households will cause alarm for many, many people,” he said.

“We need to remind people that there are exemptions based on compassionate grounds. While it’s clear that we don’t want anyone at all breaching these restrictions, common sense needs to prevail.”

The Donegal TD said he is mindful that there are many vulnerable people across the State and feels nobody should be left isolated and cut off from their communities by the new restrictions.

Mr Varadkar said he recognises the move to Level 4 restrictions in some of the border counties is a “bitter blow” to the hundreds and thousands of people living there.

He warned people in the rest of the country not to get the “wrong impression” that high infection rates are only a border problem.

“Sometimes when people hear that three of the border counties have gone up to Level 4, they may get the wrong impression that this is a problem up north or along the border. It is not,” he said.

“People in any part of Ireland should not take any comfort from the fact that the rules are stricter in those three counties. This virus is circulating in the community in every county in Ireland and we need to see it that way.”

The Fine Gael TD said people need to adhere to the public health guidelines such as handwashing and social distancing no matter what level of restrictions are in place, “whether at Level 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 26”.

He acknowledged some people on the PUP will see a “significant reduction” in their incomes, but he added the scheme has to be affordable.

He said the Covid Restriction Subsidy Scheme will “kick-in” next week and will involve a weekly payment for any business that is closed as a result of Government regulations.

He added that the three counties which have moved to Level 4 will be given priority.

Online Editors