Taoiseach Micheál Martin has denied his Government is unfairly targeting social welfare recipients, telling the Dáil yesterday that cutting the income of those who travel abroad is "not punitive". Really?
If that is the case, why has the right to non-essential travel, which social welfare recipients have always enjoyed, been quietly removed?
Why is it that they are the only cohort of people on this island who face a financial penalty if they leave? And, if cutting someone's only source of income is not punitive, what word would Mr Martin prefer to use to describe it?
When musician Ciaran Cooney, whose industry has been decimated by Covid, was approached by gardaí in Dublin airport in May, he handed over his identification without a second thought. He was travelling to Scotland for nine days to be reunited with his partner after 15 weeks.
He was not warned that if he was in receipt of the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP), and got on the flight, he would lose his payment. He discovered that the following week when he was left penniless and forced to move in with his parents in order to survive. It took six weeks before the payment was restored.
At the time, the only advice about foreign travel was that it should be avoided and those who returned to the country should quarantine for two weeks. Speaking on RTÉ on Monday, Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys said those in receipt of social welfare were being penalised for travel abroad because "we're at a crucial stage in relation to dealing with this virus" and the "Irish people have sacrificed so much and nobody wants to see us go back".
Why is the Government so concerned about the foreign holidays of those on social welfare when plane loads of tourists from hotspots like Texas are arriving daily and mandatory quarantine has yet to be enforced? Are those on social welfare vectors for the disease while US tourists are not?
"The public health advice is very clear - do not travel abroad," said Humphreys. She was right about that. The public health advice is clear, but she failed to mention the Government has ignored it. Or maybe she missed the announcement about travel restrictions being removed from the 15 countries in the 'green list'.
Meanwhile, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar seemed to imply the penalty arose because those travelling were "not genuinely seeking work or not genuinely living in the country". Coincidentally, a requirement to be "genuinely seeking work" has now been added to the list of qualifying criteria on the Gov.ie website.
Up to then, it had been assumed that no such requirement existed - mainly because it was never mentioned before this week and also because most of those on the payment have temporarily lost their jobs because their places of work are closed and reopening on a phased basis. Should pub workers now be looking for work in advance of the August 10 reopening of their industry?
Back in April, at the height of this pandemic, Revenue relaxed a rule which states that high net worth non-residents who spend more than 183 days in the country become liable for tax. These millionaires and billionaires, who fly around the globe on private jets, didn't have to worry about facing a financial penalty for overstaying their welcome.
Meanwhile, those on PUP who lost their jobs to the virus, many of whom would have booked holidays before their world came crashing down, have been told they will be left with nothing if they opt to leave.
When it comes to the rich, restrictions are loosened. For the poor, restrictions are tightened. Similarly, those on jobseeker's benefit, who have always had an entitlement to travel abroad for two weeks each year and retain their benefits, have had that right stripped away.
On July 10, Humphreys published a regulation which stated travel was only permitted "in accordance with the general travel advisory in operation by the Department of Foreign Affairs".
However, since the department published the green list, this has changed. Not by ministerial order, but via a change on the Department of Social Protection's website which states "jobseeker's payments will not be made to anyone who travels abroad" - no matter how green their destination.
Not only is this arbitrary, it is illogical. Why ban travel for social welfare claimants to countries that have lower levels of Covid-19 than Ireland? Why publish the green list at all if travel to those countries is deemed so dangerous?
Most of us can understand that travel abroad is not advisable at the moment. It is the unfair application of this advice to different cohorts of people that is at issue.
For the majority, it is advisory. For social welfare claimants, it is mandatory.
At the very least, the Government could have made an effort to publicise the fact that those who travelled abroad were at risk of losing their income.
But they didn't even bother doing that.
At the start of this crisis, social cohesion was strong because people were treated fairly and there was a sense that we were all in it together.
The rapid expansion of the PUP to cover 600,000 people within a matter of weeks, was among the State's proudest achievements as it grappled with the virus in the early stages.
Now, the Government risks undermining that good work by senselessly targeting the very group it went to such efforts to protect. Those who lost their jobs through no fault of their own.
If it does, it will reap a whirlwind.
If the Government believes a travel ban is necessary to protect public health, then introduce one for everyone - rich and poor alike.
If not, it must stop discriminating against those in receipt of social welfare payments.