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Leo Varadkar defends Covid-19 payment anomalies as 'a price worth paying to protect incomes'

The Taoiseach was answering questions about reports that those who are not resident in Ireland could be claiming the Covid-19 payment.

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TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has responded to reports that there are anomalies in the Covid-19 unemployment payment, which may result in those who are not entitled to it receiving the €350 a week payment.

There have been reports that Irish citizens who are not resident in Ireland are applying for the Covid-19 payment, and that some have received it.

This follows suggestions that the legislation passed by the Dáil to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic was rushed through and not properly scrutinised for anomalies.

Answering questions today, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that it’s a concern for him if people are availing of any State payments that they aren’t entitled to, but added that the Covid-19 payment system “is not perfect”, and that there are going to be “loads of anomalies”.

I know one of the anomalies that has arisen is that there are people who are working part-time for example, who were earning less than €350 a week, who lost their jobs and now actually might be slightly better off. 

“I have heard stories of people who have asked their employers to lay them off, because they would be better off on a €350 payment than working 20 hours a week for €11 an hour – do the maths yourself.

I would say to anyone who is thinking that, we are all in this together, and nobody in any walk of life should seek to be better off, or seek to make a profit, out of this crisis.

He added that those who would benefit would be “small in number”, and that there are other people who are getting the payment, “and are losing more”.

“It was always going to be the case that when we act as quickly as we did that anomalies would arise, and we’ll try and deal with them as we go along.”

There are over half a million people in Ireland on either the Live Register or claiming a payment due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

In the last week of March, 283,037 people were in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and 25,104 people were receiving money from the Temporary Covid-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme.

Varadkar explained this evening that the government’s response was “an emergency” response: “We wanted to make sure that whatever we did got money to companies into people quickly, and also was easy to administer.”

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“The perfect is the enemy of the good,” he said, quoting advice from Dr Mike Ryan of the World Health Organization who said in a powerful speech that “speed trumps perfection … the greatest error is not to move.”

He compared Ireland’s response to the approach in the UK, where he said that self-employed people won’t get a payment until June, whereas a lot of self-employed people in Ireland, according to Varadkar, “are already in receipt of the payment if they need it”.

People are applying for universal credit of about £100 a week across the border in Northern Ireland, he added. “Contrast that with €350 a week here – we didn’t want to leave people short.” 

“Our main objective was to make sure that nobody was going to run out of cash, that people had a safety net,” he said, adding that some people receiving the payment that shouldn’t “is a price worth paying to make sure that the vast majority of people had a decent proportion of their incomes protected”. 

- with reporting from Rónán Duffy

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