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TD criticises Pandemic Unemployment Payment checks at airports

The Department of Social Protection has stopped the PUP of more than 100 people who had travelled abroad since July 7.

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A notice for arriving passengers at Dublin Airport (Brian Lawless/PA)

A notice for arriving passengers at Dublin Airport (Brian Lawless/PA)

A notice for arriving passengers at Dublin Airport (Brian Lawless/PA)

Fianna Fail TD Willie O’Dea has criticised the Government for “singling out” a section of people by stopping their Pandemic Unemployment Payment, following checks carried out at airports.

On Sunday the Department of Social Protection confirmed that 104 cases of Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) have been stopped, as a result of checks carried out at airports.

The Department of Social Protection says if you go on holiday abroad you have to quarantine for two weeks when you return, which would affect your ability to look for work.

Mr O’Dea said: “It was not right and proper that one category of people who don’t take the Government’s advice should be singled out for punishment.”

“Nobody should disobey the Government advice, but why should one category be penalised for it when others are getting away scot-free,” he told RTE radio.

Mr O’Dea said he will call on the Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys and the Government to “withdraw this campaign”.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) questioned the legality of checks being carried out at airports to identify travellers in receipt of PUP.

ICCL 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.”

Speaking in Dublin on Monday, Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris said no-one should be travelling abroad on holidays, 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.

“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.”

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.”

PA