The Tánaiste has told the Dáil that profitable companies “should refund the money they received under the employment wage subsidy scheme”.
Taking Leaders’ Questions, Leo Varadkar said that if a company “could pay their shareholders dividends, but they didn’t really need the wage subsidy money, well, I think that money should be repaid.”
He was responding to questioning in the Dáil from Labour’s Ged Nash after it emerged in the Irish Times that a number of companies that had received the State’s pandemic wage subsidy scheme last year had subsequently paid dividends to shareholders after they made a profit.
“The people of Ireland picked up the bill for the wages of the workers”, Deputy Nash added.
“Even Santa Claus wouldn’t be this generous”.
“The government was warned that this abuse would happen from the get go”.
Mr Varadkar said he would not refer to any particular company or family, noting the Ceann Comhairle’s caution to Deputy Nash in that regard.
He said “in fairness” some companies have returned subsidies they received.
Elsewhere, the Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe, said he utterly understood the debate that has arisen around the wage subsidy schemes.
However, he defended the scheme and said it had been a powerful and successful intervention in saving the economy.
He told the News at One on RTÉ Radio One that the schemes have paid out over €6.6bn and protected 696,900 jobs.
Over 51,000 employers benefitted in this scheme, he said, and the vast majority participated in good faith.
He added that just a minority saw a higher level of profitability or traded better than anticipated.
Those companies have either left the scheme or given money back to the State, he said.