I extend my solidarity and good wishes to the two members of An Garda Síochána who were shot and injured in the course of their duties last night in Whitechapel in Blanchardstown here in Dublin. We are very conscious of the fact that members of the Garda put themselves in harm's way day in and day out to keep our communities safe. We express our appreciation for this and extend our solidarity to the two gardaí in question and to the community in Blanchardstown for which this is also a very violent ordeal.
On Friday, the Taoiseach will make his announcement on the next phase of the reopening of our society and our economy. There is no doubt there is a feeling of hope and optimism as we look forward to getting back to some kind of normality. People want to get back to work and businesses want to reopen. As we head towards Friday, there are still 300,000 workers relying on the pandemic unemployment payment and a further 300,000 still depend on the wage subsidy scheme. As the Taoiseach is aware, many of these people have not seen a day’s work in more than a year. Despite the reopening, they are not sure when they will get back to work. They depend on these income supports to pay the bills, pay rent, provide for their children and put food on the table.
The Taoiseach had planned to cut these supports from January but the onset of the third wave forced him to change his mind. In April, he resurrected his intention to introduce cuts from the end of June, even though thousands of workers and businesses will still be prevented from earning. As the Taoiseach is aware, the sectors affected include aviation, arts and entertainment, restaurants and pubs that do not have outdoor areas, as well as aspects of the tourism sector that cater for international visitors. In addition to the pandemic unemployment payment and the wage subsidy scheme, those receiving the short-time work support are also in a situation where their eligibility is coming to an end but they will not be back in full employment.
For weeks, these workers have had a cloud of uncertainty hanging over them. The Minister, Deputy Humphreys, said the Government would give clarity regarding the future of these payments by the end of May. It is 26 May but these workers still do not know what they will face come the end of June. It is unfair to leave them with this level of stress and anxiety. Everybody wants to get back to work as soon as it is possible and safe. These workers are not looking for big bonuses or the massive pay hikes that others have seen during the crisis. They simply want fairness and an assurance from their Government that the rug will not be pulled from under them while they are still going through very difficult times.
It is not good enough simply to say that there will not be a cliff edge. These workers need to know they will not face any cut. We have consistently said to the Taoiseach that so long as we have a public health emergency that prevents people from going to work or reopening their businesses they need to be supported, and I am sure the Taoiseach agrees with this. Everyone wants to get back to work but the reality is that we will still face restrictions for some time and, let us say it out loud, we are still unclear and cannot be certain about new variants in the future. It is clear that income supports should continue until the autumn at least. This makes sense.