Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys contacted the Taoiseach and Tánaiste in the hours before her Dáil speech to insist people on welfare should be permitted to travel to green-list countries without having their payments stopped.
fter facing a barrage of Opposition criticism on Tuesday, Ms Humphreys met with her officials yesterday morning and said a solution had to be found to bring an end to the controversy surrounding the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) and the Jobseeker's Allowance.
The minister insisted they had to undo measures that penalised those in receipt of the payments for travelling abroad.
But she did not want a free-for-all and said people should still be deducted payments if they travel to countries which the Government deems to have a high level of coronavirus infections.
After making the decision with her officials, Micheál Martin's and Leo Varadkar's offices were contacted to let them know the minister had decided to amend legislation around the payments and bring them in to line with the Government's travel advice.
The Taoiseach and Tánaiste agreed with the move and it was agreed that Ms Humphreys would make the announcement in the Dáil ahead of Leaders' Questions, where it was expected Mr Martin would be grilled on the controversy by Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald.
It was hoped an Opposition TD would question Ms Humphreys on the travel ban.
It emerged yesterday evening that a review of cancelled pandemic unemployment payments has found 85 people had their benefits cut off after going on holidays.
The Department of Social Protection will now contact each person to determine if they have a case for having their pay restored.
It said in a statement that it had completed the review of the 2,500 PUP cases where payment was stopped for travelling abroad. "This review has identified some 85 cases that have the potential to be entitled to the PUP for a holiday period."
Meanwhile, after hours of Dáil debate on the topic the previous evening, TDs were focused on other issues related to state welfare.
Ms Humphrey was then forced to seek time to speak from her Fine Gael colleague Jennifer Carroll McNeill and sought permission to address the chamber from acting Dáil chairman John Lahart.
The minister described the PUP as "a solidarity payment to protect people's income at a time of national crisis".
"I strongly believe that any person who breached that solidarity by claiming a payment they were not entitled to because they were no longer living in the country should have their payment stopped," she added.
However, she admitted her department could have "communicated more effectively on this issue" and pledged to review all cases where payments were stopped because someone went on holidays.
The minister then announced she was reversing her decision to strip people of the PUP and Jobseeker's Allowance.
"That will mean persons on Pandemic Unemployment Payment can travel to green-list countries and their payment will not be impacted."
"As with jobseeker's payments, persons travelling to countries outside the green list can only do so for essential reasons," she added.
The minister made the decision despite support from her Fine Gael colleagues who believed the Government should hold the line on the stopping the payments for foreign travel.
However, some senior party figures did believe the ban was sending a bad message.
Later in the Dáil, the Taoiseach clashed with Ms McDonald when she raised questions about checks by social welfare officers at airports.