By Dominic McGrath, PA
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has refused to say whether the Government is working on a fresh package of measures to ease the cost-of-living crisis.
Mr Martin said the Government has already allocated €2 billion since October’s budget to alleviate cost-of-living pressures.
Speaking in Derry during a visit to the Magee Campus of Ulster University, Mr Martin said: “We are looking at a wartime situation which is having an enormous impact on energy prices, of that there is no doubt.
“What I said yesterday is that we cannot deal with this on a week-to-week basis, we have to look at this over the medium term, in terms of the Government’s approach to this.
“It is huge an imposition on households and on business, and input costs are rising, and it is having an effect on the economy, in terms of rising inflation and then in terms of how we see the situation from now until the end of the year.
“It is full of uncertainty, and it is creating huge challenges for households and business, and government will be working with all of the stakeholders in terms of navigating a way forward.
“We’ve already allocated two billion since the budget in alleviating pressures, we’ve also looked at it sectorally, in terms of hauliers, farming and agriculture.
“Therefore that’s how we intend to approach this but what we are witnessing now is the impact of this war on Ukraine which has exasperated very significantly the ongoing issues we were having already.”
Earlier, the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that there are a “lot of things in the mix” to tackle the cost of living.
The Tánaiste flagged concerns about potential diesel shortages and a doubling of energy prices, but said it was unlikely the State would need to introduce energy rationing in response to the war in Ukraine.
Mr Varadkar however, who was speaking at the opening of new habitats at Dublin Zoo, is the latest Government figure to indicate that a fresh package of measures will be introduced to protect households bearing the brunt of rising inflation.
It was his first public event since emerging from isolation after testing positive for Covid-19.
On Thursday, Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan said the Government has plans to bring in more measures to try to ease the costs to households.
The Green Party leader said the Government is considering using mandatory time-of-day-pricing for electricity.
Mr Varadkar on Friday said that he did not want to add to speculation, but ruled out using borrowed money to fund any new measures.
“I think it is important to acknowledge the very serious effect high energy prices are having on households. A lot of people struggling to pay the bills. And also on businesses.
“The global price of gas has increased fourfold. That of course has an impact too on the price of electricity,” he said.
“We are not going to see prices increase by fourfold.”
Tanaiste Leo Varadkar out of isolation and, he jokes, “back in the wild” at Dublin Zoo this morning pic.twitter.com/RGZXwgYiwg
— Dominic McGrath (@McGrathDominic) April 1, 2022
“But they will increase a lot. If you take from trough to peak, we might see gas and energy prices as much as double.
“And no Government unfortunately can fully compensate people and businesses for that.”
But he said the Government is “examining what else we can do to soften the blow”.
“A lot of things are in the mix and a lot of what we can and can’t do will be determined by budgetary position for a start, because we don’t want to use borrowed money to do this.
“And secondly, what we could do under European law.”
He rejected the suggestion that the need to bring forward further measures was confirmation that the support already in place has failed.
Opposition parties have repeatedly called the Government actions so far on inflation, which included a cut to excise duty on fuel, inadequate.
Mr Varadkar said that it was a “dynamic situation” and that the Government had to respond to an “evolving situation”.
The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment also said he was optimistic that Ireland could avoid going into recession as a result of the crisis in Ukraine.
He said: “It is our objective to make sure we are one of the few countries in the world that will avoid going into recession due to the energy and Ukraine crisis.
“We did manage to avoid going into recession during the pandemic, unlike almost any country in the world. I am determined, as is Minister [for Finance Paschal] Donohoe and the Taoiseach, that we avoid going into recession as a consequence of the current crisis.
“That is possible, but it does mean doubling down on all the things that make Ireland successful economically.”