Criticism has been levelled at the Government by a number of Cork TDs for singling out social welfare recipients for travelling abroad.
Sinn Féin TD for Cork North Central Thomas Gould has criticised the policy of performing airport checks to stop pandemic unemployment payments to people travelling abroad.
He said that while only essential travels should be taking place, he is “deeply concerned” that the Department of Social Protection “is performing checks on people at airports in order to identify people on pandemic unemployment income supports and stop payments if they holiday abroad”.
Deputy Gould said it showed the “misguided and warped priorities” of the Government, which sees those worst off financially being punished.
“It continues an unfair and inaccurate obsession which many Government Ministers seem to have with ‘punishing’ those on social welfare. Meanwhile, people on higher incomes do not face the same threats,” he said.
“This policy adds to the ongoing confusion and chaos which have characterised the travel ‘green list’ from the start. People are being told not to go abroad, then told they can do so. They are told they will be punished financially for going, but only if they are in receipt of income supports,” Deputy Gould added.
He went on to criticise the Government for failing to put an adequate test and trace system in place at airports, which would include temperature checks, testing and proper enforcement of quarantine.
“We are now in a ludicrous position whereby some of the only checks taking place at airports are about social welfare. This is misguided and unfair,” he concluded.
Cork East TD, Labour’s Seán Sherlock, also hit out at the Government’s actions saying people receiving social welfare payments were being singled out. He said no one else going abroad was being financially punished for doing so.
“The clear advice is not to travel unless it is essential travel, but it’s not clear what criteria the Department is applying, as the regulations appear to be cutting off anyone receiving a payment who travels abroad. What if the travel is essential?
“The government has managed to deploy resources to check if people leaving the country are unemployed, but they haven’t been able to adequately follow up on those arriving here, or test them on arrival for Covid-19,” he concluded.
He also queried the collection of personal data and said the Minister needed to provide a full explanation of who collects it and who can access it.
“The scale of the checks required would indicate that the State is collecting the names and personal details of everyone leaving the State. If that is the case then we urgently need detail from the Minister about what protections are in place, and how data protection law is complied with,” Deputy Sherlock said.