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Tanaiste confirms Ireland may be allowed set limit on migrant welfare benefit


Joan Burton

Joan Burton

Joan Burton

Ireland could be permitted to limit welfare benefits to migrant workers from other EU countries under a new proposal being considered by the European Commission.

The Irish Times reports that EU leaders are to settle the issue of of in-work benefits for migrants, amid concern among member states that other countries could follow Britain and introduce curbs on migrant' benefits.

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton told RTE’s Morning Ireland today that it would be appropriate to “link” each child to the child benefit system in their country.

“I have met both the last commissioner and the current EU commissioner and put very strongly the fact that in Ireland as in the UK and a number of other countries, people pay social insurance contributions so let’s be very clear that our social welfare system, the contributory system is based on the fact that people during their working lives contribute. Therefore if people come into the system, until they have built up contributions we don’t broadly expect them to be taking from the system.”

“We’re seeking for instance, and I’ve sought that the situation in relation to paying child benefit abroad, that that should be examined and addressed.”

She added: “Where children are living abroad, and may never have been in Ireland, we come under a legal obligation in the context of European law to pay full child benefit abroad. My own view has been for some it would be more appropriate to link it that to the relevant local child benefit payments in the country.”

Ms Burton said the amount of child benefit payments being paid out by Ireland abroad has been reduced from over €20m to €11m during her time as minister.

“The difficulty is that if you’re paying abroad, how do you actually satisfy that the children are there? But we’ve cut it in half. It was well over €20m when I came in, it’s down to around €11m now and it will continue to fall as I have brought in new anti-fraud measures in the department in relation to people in Ireland but also in relation to anybody receiving money abroad.”

She added: “We want Britain to stay in the European Union. Britain is our most important trading partner, our trade with Britain runs into billions of euros and sterling every single solitary year.”

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