Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said the cuts to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment rates are wrong and she does not accept the Minister for Finance's reasons for doing so.

Earlier this week, Paschal Donohoe said the reasoning behind the cuts was so that the PUP could last longer for more people. 

Speaking on RTÉ's The Week in Politics, Ms McDonald described the move as "unfair and wrong" at a time when substantial parts of the economy are still in a shutdown. 

She said: "For my part, I think it's unfair, and I think it is wrong to cut that payment at a time when substantial parts of the economy are still in full lockdown and other parts of the economy are struggling on limited capacity. 

"So for me at this time, Government has to be driven by two things, fairness and common sense, and where I see an absence of those things, of course I have to call it out."

Ms McDonald said the Government needs to be driven by two things, common sense and fairness. She said where she sees an absence of that it needs to call it out.

She said the very reason to extend and maintain the PUP laid in the fact that the country was still in the middle of the crisis, adding that there are whole sectors that are still not back at work, and don't know when they will be.

She said the smart thing to do was to support those workers and said Mr Donohoe needs to change his position.

On reports that the PUP could be cut for students, she said she would keep it going for them, saying that taking it away from students would be "morally wrong".

She said she did not think any reasonable person could dispute that anyone who lost work due to the pandemic could receive financial support.

On the budget, she said no matter who was in Government the country would be running a deficit, adding that in Sinn Féin's alternative budget the deficit figure would run to around the same, although their approach would be different.

She said the Government should have tackled the banks in terms of mortgage relief extensions, saying that it was leaving it late to meet the banks tomorrow, with payment breaks no longer in place from Wednesday.

She said other countries have granted longer extensions to such mortgage breaks, which could happen here in order to give people breathing room.

Asked if she believed the Government had the power to close businesses flouting Covid-19 rules, she said there is an issue of Covid-19 being a notifiable disease, which needed to change. 

She said this was not about creating a difficulty for business, and was about protecting human health and welfare, and the economy.

Ms McDonald said the country needs a "very ambitious and well resourced" testing and tracing system, which would allow us to flatten the curve and facilitate people going back to work.

She said the Government needs to be able to deliver the 100,000 tests per week capacity, and also clarify its overall strategy, insofar as whether it is purely reactive.

Ms McDonald said six months ago, we knew there was a problem with PPE and testing reagents, and after all this time, the question now was how much ground has been made up ahead of winter.

She said it is not a matter of political contention and was an agreed matter that testing and tracing are the core of the country's approach to tackling the virus, which needed to be an all-island approach.

She said the Northern Ireland Executive also needed to be active in this regard to keep people safe.

Asked if a crisis were to come about in Northern Ireland if charges were brought against Michelle O'Neill or any other party figures having attended the funeral of Bobby Storey, Ms McDonald said the PSNI will conclude their businesses and she did not want to comment.

On the issue of junior ministers having advisors, Ms McDonald said that to have advisors was reasonable, but the number of advisors for junior government ministers was excessive.

She said if her party was in government, the only people who would have advisors would be those who need them.