REPORTS have emerged of households disconnecting their gas supplies in a pre-emptive act against rising energy costs.
The revelation was made by the coordinator of Cobh’s recently formed Cost of Living Coalition Anne McShane, who has been visiting homes to determine the human impact of the cost of living crisis.
The solicitor was speaking as part of a panel at the Cork Cost of Living press conference at Sunday’s Well and Surrounding Areas Community Centre. She was joined by a delegation made up of Cork City Council water workers shop steward, John Mullins, Sinn Féin TD, Thomas Gould, and People Before Profit/Solidarity TD, Mick Barry. The event was organised in advance of the Cost of living Protest, on Grand Parade this Saturday at 2pm.
Ms McShane spoke of her visits to those affected in Cobh.
“The truth is that people are very afraid,” she said. “I have been told terrible stories from elderly people deciding not to put on the gas at all this Winter. One woman’s parents had told her they are disconnecting the gas because they’re worried that they won’t be able to cope this winter. They’re not sure about the levels the bills are going to reach. I’m being told of people having nervous breakdowns and going to their doctor for anti-depressants.”
However, the main fear consuming many people, Ms McShane pointed out, is of the unknown.
“The one thing that struck me is the intense dread of people harming themselves. They feel unable to cope with the possibilities to come.” She is urging people to come together as well as form cost-of-living coalitions locally.
“Together we give each other strength and the ability to fight for what is coming down the tracks. We know that this is a big challenge. It is not about one cut or one extra charge. We need to be together nationally — and organising locally — in order to be able to take this on.
TD Mick Barry reiterated her sentiment.
“The landlord has already had their say,” he said. “€20,000 is the average price of rent for a year for a house in the city. Energy companies have had their say with sky- high bills and massive profits. The government have had their say, but haven’t done enough. This (the protest) is a chance for the people to have their say. Now is the time for action.”
Meanwhile Sinn Féin TD, Thomas Gould said that drastic action is required to ease the hardship of both families and individuals.
“We are looking at a winter of disconnect where people can’t heat their homes, feed their families or look after their children. I worry about students and older people. I worry about people trying to budget for Christmas. People can’t book holidays anymore. Families with children in school or college are really struggling. Rent caps or even a reduction in electricity and gas bills need to return to pre-crisis levels. Michael McGrath is saying this will be a budget like no other. I really hope he’s right, because that is what is needed.”