People receiving the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) should be looking for work, Taoiseach Micheal Martin has said.
On Sunday the Department of Social Protection confirmed that 104 cases of PUP have been stopped, as a result of checks carried out at airports.
The department said that if someone went on holiday abroad they would have to quarantine for two weeks when they return, which would affect their ability to look for work.
Mr Martin said: “The pandemic unemployment is going on until next March, I think people on the payment should seek work while they’re on the pandemic unemployment payment and many are.
“Many people are getting employment hence the numbers are coming down in recent months.
“They should seek work and I think that is happening in the economy… as a general rule of thumb, we want people to come off the Pandemic Unemployment Payment on a progressive basis.”
Earlier, Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys defended the Government’s decision to stop social welfare payments for those who have travelled abroad for non-essential purposes.
Ms Humphreys reiterated public health advice not to travel abroad except for essential reasons.
Minister Simon Harris says he doesnât want to go down a ârabbit holeâ regarding people on the pandemic unemployment payment having their payment stopped for going abroad.— Ãine McMahon (@AineMcMahon) July 27, 2020
âI donât want to see anybody going to an airport, going on a foreign holiday.â pic.twitter.com/zb8Cp7tzvU
“The public travel advice is to not travel abroad, and that applies to everyone.
“For example we have 340,000 public servants in the country, and if any one of those chose to travel abroad, they would not be paid for the two-week quarantine when they return,” she told RTE radio.
She said: “The point is, if you’re on the unemployment benefit at this point in time, and if you don’t have a job to go to, then you should be actively looking for other work.”
Ms Humphreys said anyone who is in receipt of the PUP, and who is found to be travelling for essential reasons, will continue to receive the payment.
“In the case of some sectors, for example if you work in a pub, we are hoping that you will be able to go back to your job, so you don’t have to be looking for work in that situation.
“But if you find that you’re going to be permanently unemployed because your job isn’t there, then you should be looking for work.”
Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris said no-one should be travelling abroad on holiday, whether they receive the payment or not.
“I would say, as a former health minister, that my most important advice to people, whether you’re on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment or not – you should not be going abroad right now.
For the avoidance of doubt, we can confirm that we are not sharing passenger data with any third party agencies. In fact, we have no access to such passenger data. We cannot comment on the actions of any third party agencies.— Dublin Airport (@DublinAirport) July 27, 2020
“I think that is a message that we can’t say enough, we have made really good progress together in relation to Covid-19.
“Rather than getting down the rabbit hole of whether you are on the PUP or not – I don’t want to see anybody going to an airport and going on a foreign holiday this year.
“It is far too important that we keep on top of this virus and get our kids back to school and get them back open at the end of August.”
Irish Council for Civil Liberties executive director Liam Herrick said the checks on passengers, to establish if they were in receipt of the PUP weekly payment of up to 350 euro, may be discriminatory.
“It’s just advice for one section of the population, but it actually has the force of law for another section – those that are dependent on social welfare payments,” Mr Herrick told RTE radio.
He added: “It has changed the definition of what is an allowable holiday.”
Meanwhile, Dublin Airport said on Monday that it does not collect data about any passengers.
It tweeted: “For the avoidance of doubt, we can confirm that we are not sharing passenger data with any third party agencies. In fact, we have no access to such passenger data. We cannot comment on the actions of any third party agencies.”