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Coronavirus: Northern Ireland people given Dublin payout 'must give it back'


Amnesty call: Mark H Durkan

Amnesty call: Mark H Durkan

Amnesty call: Mark H Durkan

An amnesty must be granted to people who live in Northern Ireland but work across the border and inadvertently received a Covid-19 hardship payment from the Irish Government, it has been claimed.

The Irish Government set up the hardship fund for workers who lost their job as a result of coronavirus control measures.

People living in the Republic but working in Northern Ireland are entitled to the Covid-19 payment. However, the scheme does not apply to people working in the Republic, but whose home address is this side of the border.

The Republic's Business Minister Heather Humphreys said yesterday it is up to Stormont to give them the money.

"I think it is something we can take up with them when we meet them again but I think it would be something that they should be looking at themselves," she said.

"People who live in the South and work in the North can claim the €350 unemployment payment. Perhaps the Northern Ireland Executive would look at doing the same for people who are living in the North."

When the scheme was launched, a small number of people living here who submitted an application for the €350 payment received the money.

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They have now been told by the Irish Government they must return it - something Foyle SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan said is wrong.

"An amnesty should be granted to anyone in the North who received the Covid-19 payment because they applied to the scheme in good faith believing that because they paid their taxes and national contributions in the jurisdiction where they worked they were entitled to it," he said.

"There should also be adequate support put in place for cross-border workers who are falling through the nets of both Governments.

"Since this Covid-19 payment was launched, the Irish Government did come back with some additional support for people living in the North who work in the Republic, but if you are self-employed this additional support does not apply," he added.

One office worker from Co Armagh who did receive the payment said she feels let down by the Irish Government.

Speaking to RTE radio, she added: "I didn't know you had to be a resident of the Republic and I put in my address in Northern Ireland.

"The payment came through but I'm afraid to spend a penny of it. I'm anxious and stressed.

"Everybody should be pulling together but that doesn't seem to be the case.

"The Revenue doesn't seem to mind where my address is when I am paying tax."

The Irish Department of Social Protection, which set up the Covid-19 pandemic payment, said people living in Northern Ireland but working in the Republic are considered "frontier workers".

Ms Humphreys said: "Under the legislation that currently exists, if you are laid off south of the border and you live in the north, you have to claim your social welfare in the country in which you live.

"That is the situation currently. I have asked the Department of Social Protection to look at it and they examined it carefully.

"They have not been able to find a way in which they can pay workers who live in Northern Ireland and work south of the border."