Covid equality for north-south workers

The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection is being asked to amend the Covid payment scheme to provide equality for workers residing in the north.

Fianna Fáil's John Paul Feeley said there was an “unfairness” in the present system whereby persons, employed in the south but living in the north, who found themselves temporarily laid off due to the Coronavirus crisis, were instead directed to deal with the social welfare system north of the Border.

It was reported widely during the shutdown that workers living in Northern Ireland, who received the €350 a week Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment, were then asked by the Department to return the money.

Border workers were subsequently advised they must claim unemployment benefits in the jurisdiction within which they reside.

However, the universal Covid-19 payment in Northern Ireland and basic unemployment rates are a fraction of those provided in the south, at between €65 and €80 per week.

Cllr Feeley, who tabled the motion at the June monthly meeting of elected members, which took place in the main hall at Cavan Sports Complex on Monday of this week, complained the discrimination emerged where those workers then returned to work and continued to pay taxes to Irish Revenue.

“They are being treated unfairly,” said Cllr Feeley, who received support from Aontú's Sarah O'Reilly, later that same meeting elevated to the role of Cathaoirleach.

She pointed out that there were similar levels of inequity suffered by self-employed people over the age of 66 years; while Fine Gael's Peter McVitty concurred with his fellow speakers, noting it was a “major problem”.