Coronavirus: Opposition table amendments to government's emergency legislation

The new legislation is set to be debated from 2pm to 5pm today.

Coronavirus: Opposition table amendments to government's emergency legislation

A number of amendments to the government's emergency legislation to tackle Covid-19 have been tabled by opposition politicians.

The new legislation is set to be debated from 2pm to 5pm today.

Concerns were flagged yesterday that the legislation, which will extend the availability of payments to all those affected by the crisis, will put new restrictions on civil liberties, giving the government the ability to detain those suspected of the virus, and banning mass gatherings.

The new legislation reads:

In the public interest and having regard to the grave risk to human life and public health posed by the spread of Covid-19 and in order to mitigate the effect of the spread of Covid-19, to make provision for the Minister for Health to make regulations prohibiting or restricting the holding of certain events, access to certain premises.

The legislation also allows for a benefit to be paid for a period of six weeks at a flat rate payment of €203 per week available to all employees and the self-employed who have lost employment due to a downturn in economic activity caused by the pandemic.

People Before Profit, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin will all table amendments to increase the benefit, which they say is an inadequate amount.

Fianna Fáil and People Before Profit's amendments call for "at an absolute minimum", that the proposed pay be raised to €305 a week.

Sinn Féin and People Before Profit's amendment also calls for assurances that anybody who stays off work because of childcare closures would also be entitled to the benefit.

Fianna Fáil's Social Welfare spokesman, Willie O'Dea has tabled an amendment that would widen the contribution conditions for which people could receive illness benefit, in order to prevent people being left in a repayment situation.

He will also propose that the benefit should begin from the first day of interruption to employment, rather than the current three-day waiting period.

People Before Profit and Sinn Féin have both submitted amendments that would give power to the government to renationalise private health care facilities.

"Make provision for the Minister to make regulations to direct and control the use of all private medical facilities and suitable buildings in the state for the same purposes," People Before Profit's amendment reads.

People Before Profit have also proposed an amendment to give the government the power to requisition vacant dwellings, and other properties in order to limit the spread of Covid-19.

On housing, Sinn Féin and Labour have proposed a block on evictions for the period, power to introduce an Emergency Covid-19 Rent Supplement payment, and prohibition of disconnections on energy, broadband and telephone.

In relation to the "sunset clause", People Before Profit, like the Irish Council of Civil Liberties, have concerns about the possibility of the government’s power to prohibit events being abused, and propose any extension on the emergency powers be voted on by the Dail, rather than decided on by the government.

The Labour Party also propose the provisions have a sunset clause after six months but can be extended by a resolution passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas.


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