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'People can't be expected to live on fresh air': McDonald hits out at decision to cut PUP payments

Cuts to the PUP took effect yesterday as the government announced new Covid-19 restrictions.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald
Image: Leah Farrell via RollingNews.ie

THE GOVERNMENT HAS come in for strong criticism over its decision to reduce the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) rates despite announcing further Covid-19 restrictions. 

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald told RTÉ’s Six One News that people cannot be driven out of work or have their business crushed and “expect people to live on fresh air”. 

In an address to the nation yesterday evening, Taoiseach Michéal Martin announced changes to closing hours for hospitality and fresh advice to work from home unless absolutely necessary to attend in-person.

Politicians agreed at Cabinet yesterday morning to require pubs, restaurants and nightclubs to have an earlier closing time of midnight effective from tomorrow night. 

The move to limit the opening hours of hospitality comes less than a month after nightclubs had reopened following a 19-month closure.

Despite the updating of Covid-19 measures, the Taoiseach said there is no plan to delay the planned cuts or renew the PUP.

As of yesterday, the €250 PUP rate reduced to €203 per week — the standard jobseeker’s rate. The PUP rate of €300 reduced to €250. 

People on the higher €350 payment have already been moved to the €300 band as of September. 

The income support, introduced at the outset of the pandemic last year, is set to be scrapped altogether in February 2022.

People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy has said the decision over the PUP is “scandalous”. 

“People will lose their jobs as a result of the new restrictions, with Christmas Soon,” Murphy tweeted. 

“They should not be the ones to foot the bill for the fight against Covid,” he said. 

“The government should reopen the PUP and restore it to €350.” 

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Minister for Justice and Social Protection Heather Humphreys said yesterday evening following the government announcement on the latest restrictions that: “We’re not in a lockdown situation as was the case previously when the PUP was needed. We’re not closing businesses down en masse.”

She added: “I also think it’s important to say that for staff in nightclubs, like bar staff, there are a lot of opportunities out there at the moment.” 

With reporting by Ian Curran and Zuzia Whelan

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