Thursday, 19 March 2020
An Bille Sláinte (Caomhnú agus Cosaint agus Bearta Éigeandála Eile Ar Mhaithe Le Leas an Phobail), 2020: Céim an Choiste agus na Céimeanna a bheidh Fágtha - Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages
John Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
We have seen extraordinary events since the weekend, with over 140,000 workers being let go. It is forecast that up to another 200,000 people could be made unemployed as a result of this crisis in the near future. We heard today that there have been more than 58,000 applications for the new payment. Some 43,000 of those have been processed. Full credit to the staff in the Intreo offices, who are working under huge pressure. We are in a difficult position here today, however. Every amendment to this legislation dealing with social protection has, essentially, been ruled out of order. I do not think that is helpful.
We have a caretaker Government. At the very least, all parties should have been part of trying to put this legislation together. We have a situation now, however, where every amendment in the social protection element has, essentially, been ruled out of order. Looking at the amendments my party put forward, they are constructive. I argue that there is not a cost to the State associated with those amendments. They actually give the Government more powers to look at areas such as parents' benefit. I believe that could be utilised to put money back into the pockets of young women who may be in a situation where the creche or childcare facility to which their children go may have closed.
Their employment may not have ceased and there may be still work for them, but they may have no one to look after the kids. That payment could be utilised to put back money in such people's pockets.
Clarity is needed in respect of jobseeker's allowance. The amendments tabled by Sinn Féin would actually give more power to the Government. In correspondence from SIPTU and other trade unions, they asked for measures to be put in place to put back money in workers' pockets, which is what Sinn Féin was trying to do in our amendments, and to allow for increases to jobseeker's benefit and allowance. Unfortunately, however, all the amendments relating to social protection have been ruled out of order because it is argued there would be a cost to the State. That is not right and it will not help workers.