It is unclear why passport applications must be halted on the basis that staff need to attend the passport office to process the applications, say the Covid-19 Law and Human Rights Observatory
Trying to get a passport?
Losing your mind?
Dr Donna Lyons, a member of the Covid-19 Law and Human Rights Observatory and Trinity College Dublin representative to the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs Committee on Human Rights, writes [full article at link below]:
The Irish Times, on February 20, quoted the passport service to the effect that the following services were available: a same-day service for emergencies, a weekly urgent service for Irish citizens resident overseas requiring a passport for local immigration purposes, and in general, adult renewals for work purposes on a weekly basis where a letter from the employer was provided. Expediting passport issuance for immigration or work is nowhere mentioned on the passport service’s website.
The same article quoted the passport office as stating that while routine online passport applications did not involve face-to-face interaction with applicants, staff did need to attend the passport office to process the applications as staff do not have access to the private, personal data of applicants when working remotely.
…It is unclear why passport applications as a general rule must be halted on the basis that staff need to attend the passport office to process the applications. If it is the case that staff in the passport office do not have access to the private, personal data of applicants when working remotely, it would be useful to have an explanation by government officials as to (a) what the specific problem is with staff attending offices in-person to perform this essential service when other essential service-providers have been encouraged to return to the workplace, and (b) how the passport service differs from the likes of the NDLS, RSA, and Revenue in the context of access to personal data on a remote basis.
…In another article on 20 February 2021, an Irish Times journalist commented on the ‘data protection’ justification offered by the passport office as follows:
‘[T]his seems more than a bit disingenuous, when Revenue staff are working away remotely with equally private and personal data, and driver’s licences are still being issued. Britain may have introduced mandatory hotel quarantine to discourage travel, but it hasn’t stopped issuing passports.’
…Even if the ‘data protection’ ground were defensible, it is indefensible that the general phone lines and e-mail contact services have been closed down. Moreover, even in a genuine emergency, applicants are restricted to contacting the passport office during 9:30am and 4pm, Mondays through Fridays, since the actual emergency contact information (e-mail address and phone number) are only accessible via the Webchat service and emergency e-mail account respectively.
It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that a deliberate strategy has been put into place to make it difficult to communicate with the office, even in the case of a genuine emergency, and ‘data protection’ simply cannot be a defence to this in its entirety….
…The question of cessation of passport services in this way raises serious rule of law concerns. Rule of law is a principle which is emphasised as paramount in both domestic law and international human rights law [More at link below]…
Anyone entering the State from overseas will be subject to mandatory quarantine, either in a hotel or at home, with some exceptions, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said | Follow live updates: https://t.co/QnLXAnXNb9 pic.twitter.com/0n99ENFZWX
— RTÉ News (@rtenews) January 26, 2021
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that anyone entering the State from overseas – with some exceptions – are now required to quarantine for the first time.
However, the requirement may take several weeks to become operational.
Via RTÉ News:
Mr Varadkar said some of this quarantining will be done in hotels, some in people’s homes.
Legislation will be needed to underpin the move to hold Irish and EU citizens without a negative Covid test in hotels.
It has also been confirmed that those returning from overseas to the State via Northern Ireland will be subject to the same legal requirements.
Fines for those outside the 5km travel limit who are intending to travel abroad will be increased from the current €100….
Dublin Airport at the weekend
— RTÉ News (@rtenews) January 26, 2021
“Travellers are coming down very significantly. It’s down to quite low levels now in the last weekend.
“The majority would appear to be Irish people who went to went on holidays during the Christmas period … we need to clamp down on that.
“That is in itself a violation of the Level 5 regulations that we have in place.”
Taoiseach Micheál Martin announcing Level 5 will continue to March 5…
Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health, Dr Tony Holohan.
Last night/this morning.
Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health, has warned that international travel posed a significant rona risk. It follows Tanaiste Leo Varadkar’s advice yesterday asking people booking flights for Christmas to delay that decision.
“One of the biggest risks will be the re-importation of the disease through international travel,” said Dr Holohan.
When asked if travelling on compassionate grounds, such as a grandchild visiting here from abroad, would be allowed, Dr Holohan said inbound travel from other countries was now a bigger risk because they have higher rates of infection growth than we have.
He said: “We would feel the kind of travel that would normally happen at Christmas time, people coming back to spend time with their loved ones, which we all understand and facilitate, we regard as non-essential for this Christmas.”
Asked if he would be in favour of the vaccine being mandatory, [Trinity biochemist professor] Luke O’Neill said “that’s a tricky one.”
“What they’ve done in the past: you don’t make it against the law, you exclude people. So one prediction here is that you cannot travel unless you have the vaccine, and that would incentivise people. That’s a better way to do it,” O’Neill claimed.
— Ivor Cummins (@FatEmperor) November 13, 2020
Something extremely bogus is going on. Was tested for covid four times today. Two tests came back negative, two came back positive. Same machine, same test, same nurse. Rapid antigen test from BD.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 13, 2020
Law student Roman Shortall was stopped by Gardai at Dublin Airport; Garda statement on the incident
On air with @KatieGHannon now, Roman Shortall who was also stopped in the airport on June 13th 2020 by inspectors and Gardai.
“The Gardai told me they had been seconded to the special investigations unit in the Department of Social Protection”#liveline Call 1850 715 815
— Liveline (@rteliveline) July 28, 2020
— Liveline (@rteliveline) July 28, 2020
Liveline on RTÉ Radio One.
#liveline Any correlation between the Covid19 Tracing App and those who had their payments stopped ?
— des mckeown (@mrdesmckeown) July 28, 2020
From top: Fianna Fáil Minister for Education Norma Foley (left), Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Fine Gael Minister of State for Special Education and Inclusion Josepha Madigan; Ms Foley and Mr Martin; Minister for Employment and Social Protection Heather Humpheys
On RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
Education Minister Norma Foley was asked about the stopping of Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment and jobseekers’ allowance payments to recipients who travel abroad on holidays.
Ms Foley was specifically asked “where did this come from? Was that brought to Cabinet at any point?” She was also asked if the legal change was notified to Cabinet.
“No, I’m not aware of it having been brought to Cabinet.”
Meanwhile, last night…
On the apparent overnight change to PUP policy requiring claimants to seek work (even if furloughed from an existing job): “I will be seeking a further report on that”
— Gavan Reilly (@gavreilly) July 27, 2020
Martin also says the general advice is that “we don’t want you travelling at all”.
Which – and I really do hate to keep banging on about it, I mean it – is *not* what the Dept of Foreign Affairs ‘Travel Advice’ website says. pic.twitter.com/dXOfTyoSxy
— Gavan Reilly (@gavreilly) July 27, 2020
Virgin Media One’s Gavan Reilly reported on comments made by Taoiseach Micheál Martin about the payment cuts as a result of checks having taken place at airports, as reported in the Business Post at the weekend and the Irish Daily Star on July 2.
It followed a bizarre sequence of events including a change to the Gov.ie website where the criteria for claiming the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment was adjusted to include that people had to be “genuinely seeking work” to receive the PUP.
As a payment for people whose work has been suspended due to Covid-19 this stipulation of having to seek work appears to have been added to the list very recently.
(As recently as July 14, the Minister for Employment and Social Protection Heather Humphreys didn’t list this “genuinely seeking work” rule in a written answer about the PUP to Fianna Fáil TD Seán Fleming. In the same answer, she listed all the other criteria.)
In addition, the Irish version of the Gov.ie site doesn’t include this added condition of recipients having to be seeking work.
Curiously, on Sunday, the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar had told RTE that people receiving PUP had to be “genuinely seeking work”.
He also said the Department of Employment and Social Protection “gets information from the airports”, a claim denied by the Dublin Airport Authority and one which the Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon is now examining.
Mr Martin said he was seeking a report on the apparent change of policy regarding PUP recipients, while members of the Dublin Airport Authority are appearing before the Special Committee on Covid-19 Response this morning.
Meanwhile, yesterday afternoon.
On RTÉ’s News at One.
Minister for Employment and Social Protection Heather Humphreys spoke to Christopher McKevitt about the same matter. During the interview, Ms Humphreys was repeatedly asked if there had been a change in Government advice pertaining to PUP recipients. She continually didn’t answer the question.
Then, at the end of the interview, she said people who work in pubs whose work has been suspended due to Covid-19 don’t have to look for other work in order to receive the PUP.
From the interview…
Christopher McKevitt: “Just in relation to one item from, that emerged from the weekend, the halting of payments for some 104 people arising from their travel plans a Dublin Airport. Can you, as the minister, explain what’s happened there?”
Heather Humphreys: “Yeah well, we are at a crucial stage in relation to dealing with this virus and, as we look across the world, we see other countries re-introducing restrictions and asking people to return to lockdown and the Irish people have sacrificed so much and nobody wants to see us go back.
“In relation to travelling abroad, the public health advice is very clear. Do not travel abroad except for essential reasons and I want to be very clear. If any person intends to travel for essential purposes – for example, for health reasons, for a family bereavement, or for whatever, you know, essential reason, they have to go – you will continue to get your payment.
“And we’re asking and we’re encouraging people to holiday at home this year.”
McKevitt: “Right but…”
Humphreys: “And follow the clear, public health advice so that…and that’s so important in our battle to defeat this virus.”
McKevitt: “Indeed it is but can we just ask you on the specific point about leaving the country. OK, it’s the public health advice, not to leave the country but it is also the tradition that people are entitled to a two-week holiday how so ever they choose to spend that holiday is their own affair. Yes, there is guidance but it’s not enforceable guidance is it? So, so it seems to me that the Government has potentially penalised people on the social welfare code, for making that decision to travel, no matter how distasteful many people may find that decision of theirs to do so.”
Humphreys: “Yeah, well, the public health advice is not to travel abroad and that applies to everyone. So, for example, we have 340,000 public servants in this country and if any one of those chose to travel abroad they will not be paid for the two-week quarantine period when they return and, equally, there’s many private companies [who] have also told their staff that if they choose to go abroad, they will not be paid for the period that they have to quarantine when they come home. So we’re not trying to pick on anybody here. We are doing what is right by the country to protect our people.”
McKevitt: “Has there been a change…minister, minister, minister, sorry to cut across you but has there been a change in the Government.ie advice on receiving, or eligibility to receive the pandemic unemployment payment. Is it now the case that you must be genuinely seeking work? Because there’s quite an amount of activity on social media saying this is a new element that is being introduced to the qualifying guidelines as of this morning?”
Humphreys: “Well, as the economy has reopened up again, of course we want people to get back to work and that’s why we’re investing a huge amount of money in trying to get people back to work. But just to be clear, under normal circumstances, there is a flexibility under social welfare legislation whereby a person on jobseekers can travel abroad for up to two weeks and it doesn’t impact their payment. But the point here is that we are not in normal circumstances. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic and it is in that context and in order to protect people’s lives…”
Humphreys: “…that we have temporarily suspended the flexibility that people can continue to receive their unemployment payment when abroad.”
McKevitt: “Is there a change in the advice for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment? Let’s remind ourselves. It was for people who’d lost their job as a result of the pandemic or who’d been temporarily laid off because of the Covid-19 pandemic. That was, the expectation, for the 600-thousand-odd people who went on to it was that their job would be restored to them. Now, it seems that there is a new piece of guidance in terms of the eligibility to qualify for the PUP, that you must be genuinely seeking work. Is that the case?”
Humphreys: “Yeah, well, you always have, for any unemployment…”
Humphreys: “…benefit, you always had to be, you know, to look for work and genuinely be looking for work. But I think the point is being missed here. This is the public health advice, it’s to stay at home, and, and the point is that we should be staying in Ireland and in a couple of months’ time…”
McKevitt: “But is the message, minister, is the message now to the 300,000 or the 286,000 people who are receiving the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, that they, as of this morning, must be genuinely seeking work? Is that the case now?”
Humphreys: “Well for some whose industry hasn’t opened back up again, obviously if you work in a pub, you know, you’re looking to get your job back there again. But, for others, they should be looking for work and that’s what most people on PUP want to do, they want to get a job, they don’t want to be on the payment, they want to get back to work. But I just want to be…”
McKevitt: “No, but supposing they’re working for a company that can no longer afford to employ them. Is it the case now that they shouldn’t necessarily be looking forward to returning to their old job but should be seeking new work in a different work environment?”
Humphreys: “Well unfortunately, yeah, unfortunately, there are going to be people who won’t be able to go back to their old jobs…”
McKevitt: “And is that new advice as of today?”
Humphreys: “Well, no, it’s not new advice. Obviously if you can’t get back to work, you need to, most people want to get back to work, they don’t want to stay on the unemployment payment and that’s why I have extended it. You know, last week, in the jobs stimulus, in relation to the payment, instead of reducing the payment to €203 in August, as originally planned, the Government has decided to take a fair approach and extend the payment until April and that is because we do not want anyone to suffer a cliff-edge reduction in their payment.
“So we’re not telling people you know, that, to stay at home, we want them to come back to work and that’s why we’re investing €200million in back-to-work initiatives and job incentive programmes.”
McKevitt: “If we were to return to phase two, arising from perhaps a second wave, and people had to return, people who had returned to work having received the PUP, were to go back onto the PUP scheme again, would the advice be to genuinely seek work with an alternative employer?”
Humphreys: “Well, if, of course, if we go back on to the, you know, if we go backwards, and we hope, we don’t go backwards, that’s the whole point of following the public health advice, that’s the whole point of asking people to stay at home this year, because the safest thing you can do is stay at home. But you’re looking at a situation that may or may not occur.
“But the point is, if you’re on the public, the unemployment benefit at this point in time, if you don’t have a job to go to, then you should be actively looking for other work. And, you know, if your job is no longer there. In the case of some sectors, for example, if you work in a pub, we are hoping that you will be able to go back to your job so you don’t have to be looking for work in that situation. But if you find that you’re going to be permanently unemployed because your job isn’t there then you should be looking for work and that’s why we have invested all of this money in a job activation programme.”
McKevitt: “Many thanks, Minister for Social Protection and Employment Affairs Heather Humphreys.”
— Privacy Kit (@PrivacyKit) July 27, 2020
For anyone unaware of the legal facts (and their rights) surrounding @welfare_ie checkpoints @DublinAirport. @DPCIreland @RBoydBarrett @CormacDevlin @VirginMediaNews @gavreilly @IrishTimes @Independent_ie @hollyshortall @ICCLtweet @rteliveline @rtenews #DublinAirport #varadkar pic.twitter.com/IlheJ67eoD
— Roman Shortall (@RomanShortall) July 27, 2020
Listen back in full here
Taoiseach Micheál Martin arriving for last night’s cabinet meeting at Dublin Castle
This morning/last night.
The Government has agreed that the following countries be included as ‘Normal Precautions on the Department of Foreign Affairs Travel Advice’: Malta, Finland, Norway, Italy, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Cyprus, Slovakia, Greece, Greenland, Gibraltar, Monaco, and San Marino.
Via Merrion Street:
Anyone arriving into Ireland from these countries will not have to restrict their movements. Passengers from any other country outside of those with a Normal Precautions advisory are asked to restrict their movements for 14 days.
The list will be reviewed on a fortnightly basis, based on advice from officials including public health experts.
There is no change to the current policy in respect of travel from Northern Ireland.
The Government will continue with plans to strengthen the existing measures for monitoring passengers who arrive into Ireland, including the introduction of an Electronic Passenger Locator Form, enhanced follow-up procedures, a call centre operated by the DAA, and a proposed testing regime for symptomatic passengers at airports and ports.
Processes to restrict flight or passenger travel in certain circumstances will also be explored.
In conjunction with these preventative measures, there will be a renewed communications campaign across all platforms to ensure maximum public awareness of the latest advice.
The Pandemic is not over and the public health advice remains the same. The safest thing to do is not to travel.’
€800,000 a day is being lost by consumers on foreign travel for flights and holidays forgone. People are being penalised for doing the right thing. Our airlines are vital services but their future can’t be built on the back of this dreadful treatment of customers. #GreenList pic.twitter.com/IMum1nZ54D
— Darren O’Rourke TD (@orourke_darren) July 22, 2020
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly (above) has said public health officials are concerned a big increase in international travel could see ‘a second wave’ of Covid-19 in Ireland
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Donnelly said the Government still plans to publish a “green” list of countries on 9 July, but no decision has been made on when it will be activated.
“July 9 is a decision that has been taken to publish a list.There may be a recommendation to Cabinet [on Monday] that that might change,” he said.
The minister said he understood that the issue is of great concern to people, who may have already booked holidays or who may be planning a trip abroad, and the National Public Health Emergency is meeting today on the issue.
Cases of Covid-19 in Ireland from international travel was at 2% for the last few months, but has risen to 17% in the last few weeks, he said.