Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the Government cannot use the more than €14 billion in disputed taxes it has collected from Apple pending a European court appeal to boost the economy in the fight against coronavirus.

Apple is one of the country's largest multinational employers with 6,000 workers and both it and the Government have taken action to fight a European Union order that the iPhone maker must pay the back taxes to Dublin.

The leader of the opposition Sinn Féin party, Mary Lou McDonald, suggested yesterday that the Government could reach "right this minute" into the escrow account where the funds are being held to pay for further income supports for workers.

"Mary Lou McDonald should know better, the Apple money is in an escrow account and that is where it is being held until the European Commission decides where that money is going to go," Mr Varadkar said.

"The European courts will decide whether that money either belongs to Apple or comes to the Irish revenue commissioners and then has to be distributed out among the counties of Europe. It's not ours to take and it's now before the courts.

"She should know better before coming out with that kind of rubbish."

The legal challenge is expected to run for years, while in the meantime the money has been has invested in low risk, highly rated euro-dominated bonds, mainly short to medium-term sovereign securities.

A significant financial package is due to be introduced this week for those who have lost their jobs due to coronavirus-related disruption and others at risk of becoming unemployed.

The Government has said it can push the public finances back into deficit to fund the measures, as well as tapping its €1.5 billion "rainy day" reserve fund and the €4 billion euro surplus the country's "bad bank" will begin turning over to the state this year from a decade-long sale of risky property loans.