Ireland’s business minister has said it is up to the Northern Ireland Executive to give more money to cross-border workers who live in Northern Ireland but have lost their job in the Republic.
These workers are ineligible for emergency Covid-19 unemployment payments from the Irish Government.
The 350-euro (£306) weekly payment is available for workers laid off due to Covid-19 in the Republic, but people living in Northern Ireland can only claim up to £73 (83 euro) through Jobseekers’ Allowance.
Business Minister Heather Humphreys told Northern Sound FM that workers who live in the Republic but work in Northern Ireland can claim payments, and it is up to the Stormont Executive to increase its payments to workers who live there.
“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.
“People who live in the South and work in the North can claim the 350-euro unemployment payment. Perhaps the Northern Ireland Executive would look at doing the same for people who are living in the North.”
Ms Humphreys, Fine Gael TD for the border region in Cavan-Monaghan, said on Wednesday that Department of Social Protection officials have been unable to find a way to pay workers who have been laid off from a job in the Republic but live in Northern Ireland.
“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.”
Meanwhile, a man living in Northern Ireland who lost his job in the Republic has mounted a legal challenge against the State.
Belfast law firm Phoenix Law has sent a pre-action letter to the Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty, arguing that the department’s stance is unconstitutional.
The man, who lives in Co Armagh but has worked across the border in Co Louth for the past four years until he was laid off in February, cannot access the payment despite having paid Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI).
Phoenix Law solicitor Gavin Booth said the grounds for the legal challenge amount to “the failure of the Irish Government to apply their process fairly to all citizens who pay PRSI and taxes within the Irish State”.
Mr Booth said he hopes the issue can be resolved before taking further legal action.
The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection confirmed the emergency Covid-19 payment is only available to people resident in the Republic.
It did not respond to queries about the number of workers being denied the payment because they live in Northern Ireland and how many people have been refused the payment.