Taoiseach accused of creating a ‘cliff-edge’ to Covid-19 supports

Martin defends phased plan to reduce PUP, described by TD as an ‘already meagre’ sum

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has been accused of creating a cliff-edge to pandemic support payments despite a Government pledge not to do. Photograph:  Julien Behal Photography.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has been accused of creating a cliff-edge to pandemic support payments despite a Government pledge not to do. Photograph: Julien Behal Photography.

 

The Taoiseach has been accused of creating a cliff-edge to pandemic support payments despite a Government pledge not to do.

Responding to criticism from Opposition leaders about proposals in the National Economic Recovery Plan, Micheál Martin said the Government had not “introduced a cliff-edge” and had in fact done “the opposite”.

“We have extended the pandemic unemployment payment (Pup) until September,” he said.

Mr Martin told the Dáil that an “unprecedented job activation programme” would run in parallel to the payment and that the Government plan involved significant supports for businesses and employees.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the Taoiseach was effectively cutting people’s incomes by one third and Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall said it would be a 40 per cent cut “to an already meagre payment”.

Following the announcement of the €3.5 billion economic recovery plan, Ms McDonald described the proposal for €50 cuts to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) in September, November and February as being “premature and deeply unfair”.

The Dublin Central TD acknowledged that for a vast majority the need for payments will fall naturally as the economy recovers, but there were many who “will be abandoned by your Government when they are at the end of their tether”.

Some people will still be locked out of work in September due to public health restrictions including those in aviation, hospitality, events and many other sectors, she said.

Duty to support

Ms McDonald said that if the Government “is going to stop you going back to work, then Government has a duty to support you”.

Ms Shortall told the Taoiseach that he had announced a cliff-edge because “no matter what happens payments will be reduced in September, November and February in total a huge 40 per cent cut to an already meagre payment”.

She asked Mr Martin why had he “broken your pledge” about not introducing a cliff-edge reduction to the payments.

Mr Martin insisted the Government was doing the opposite and also running an unprecedented jobs activation programme. He said tens of thousands had gone back to employment already and the Government announcement “is a continuation of that economic recovery story”.

Extensive supports for enterprise and help for firms to retain jobs were being provided, he said, which “really gives people a fighting chance”.

Mr Martin added that many people will come off the PUP over the summer months but the Government was extending it to September and then “gradually easing” that support. He said jobs would be created through energy retrofitting schemes and public transport projects, including a Cork railway.