Plans to reduce the supports on offer to Ukrainians fleeing to Ireland are an attempt to “put the bunny back in the box”, according to Jonathan Healy.
Coalition leaders will discuss the plans tonight before they go before a full Cabinet meeting tomorrow morning.
Under the plan from Integration Minister Roderic O’Gorman, people arriving from Ukraine will only be entitled to 90 days accommodation from the State after they arrive.
Welfare payments will also be cut from the current €220 per week to the €38.80 paid under Direct Provision.
The move will bring Ireland more in line with European norms and Government hopes it will discourage people from choosing Ireland over other EU states.
The proposals have previously caused tension at Cabinet level – with Tánaiste Micheál Martin arguing that the 90-day limit will simply push Ukrainians into homeless services.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, presenter Jonathan Healy said the Government was “trying to put the bunny back in the box” with the changes.
“Do you know who is delighted this morning? A lawyer somewhere.
“How do you enforce a different system on one set of Ukrainian refugees?
“Imagine, in the same hotel, after 90 days one family gets turfed out and someone who's already there for more than two years gets to stay.
“It will be, ‘Hope you enjoyed the €220 a week; bad news it is down to €38.80 now’.
“They’ll be straight to the courts and there'll be an NGO supporting that family with what is an arguable case because you have different horses for different courses.”
Jonathan said the whole situation is a “mess of the Government’s own making”.
“They were too generous on day one,” he said.
“They should have been more streamlined and focused at the start – and I know it's a crisis and I know it's hard to do that.”
Fellow presenter Shane Coleman said he felt Jonathan was being “unduly harsh”.
“I think you're criticising for the sake of criticising; I think they did the right thing at the start,” he said.
“The rules have now changed, the facts have changed, so you change your decision.
“I think you're being harsh. Are we saying we shouldn't have been generous at the start? We shouldn't have been welcoming to Ukrainians?
“I think that's a tough position to hold personally.”
'No way around it'
He said any court will find that the Government has a right to change its policies.
“It's unfortunate that this has to happen but the reality is our payments and our accommodation offer was out of sync with pretty much everywhere else in Europe and that probably isn't sustainable long term and unfortunately, it does look like the war is going to continue for some time yet,” he said.
“I had a quick look at the figures for the number of Ukrainians here per head of capita and we are towards the top end of the table.
“The Czech Republic has a good deal more Ukrainians per head of capita than we do but in general, we are quite high and there is no question the benefits that we offer are higher than the vast majority of EU countries and I think that had to change.
“It's not ideal, it's not perfect, it's not desirable – I don't really see a way around it though.”
The proposal will be discussed by Government leaders today before going before Cabinet tomorrow morning.