Cork TD: People having to chose between 'eating and heating'

He added that temperatures had dropped below zero last night, and, with the cold snap set to continue, he predicted that many would face the stark choice between heating and eating.
Cork TD: People having to chose between 'eating and heating'

Speaking at Leaders Questions, Mick Barry, Socialist Party TD for Cork North Central, told Tánaiste Leo Varadkar that Cork’s oldest charity had served meals to hundreds of people from all walks of life over a few short hours. Photo: Damien Storan.

Cork Penny Dinners gave out 900 food parcels between 9am and lunchtime on Tuesday, as people are forced to choose between heating and eating, the Dáil has heard.

Speaking at Leaders Questions, Mick Barry, Socialist Party TD for Cork North Central, told Tánaiste Leo Varadkar that Cork’s oldest charity had served meals to hundreds of people from all walks of life over a few short hours.

“Students, elderly people, the homeless, workers on their lunchbreak,” Mr Barry said.

He added that temperatures had dropped below zero last night, and, with the cold snap set to continue, he predicted that many would face the stark choice between heating and eating.

“Eirgrid came close to issuing an amber alert yesterday, there are reports that an alert may not be avoidable in the coming days.

“This is not so much caused by the cold snap as it is by the energy supply feeding frenzy of the data centres,”

Mr Barry claimed.

Noting that it has been reported that talks had taken place between the Government, ESB Networks and Eirgrid in recent days, he called on Mr Varadkar to report to the House on those talks and to give an assurance that no household would face power cuts in the week ahead.

Mr Barry said that, despite Ireland having milder winters than most European countries, it had more excess winter deaths over the 33 years after 1980 than any other country in Northern Europe.

“Many say these deaths were caused by the cold. It’s more accurate to say that they were caused by poverty, by an inability to heat homes, and it’s a real mark of disgrace on governments led by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael that Ireland has that terrible record,” he said.

The Cork North Central TD said he knew of elderly constituents who are afraid to turn on their heating, and of families on pay-as-you-go electricity meters who are terrified that this cold snap will use up their €200 electricity credit.

With one week of Dáil time left this year, Mr Barry said that time could be used to put in place extra cost-of-living measures to help people.

Responding, the Tánaiste said the Government has been warned by Eirgrid and the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) that the margin between supply and demand for energy will be tight this winter, especially in the coming week.

Mr Varadkar said that in the case of a red alert, with demand for electricity outstripping supply, the first action would be to power down large energy users such as data centres, which have their own back-up generators.

He said that while brown-outs or blackouts affecting homes, small businesses and farms could not be ruled out, they were “highly unlikely”.

“In terms of the cost of electricity, Government is here to help,” Mr Varadkar said, pointing out that people had received their first €200 electricity credit and would receive two more before the end of the winter.

He added that applications for fuel allowance are now open and Government believes as many as 80,000 people will qualify.

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