By David Young, PA
The Government is “painfully out of touch” on the mounting cost-of-living pressures facing families across Ireland, Sinn Féin has claimed.
Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty criticised Taoiseach Micheál Martin for failing to bring forward further mitigation measures ahead of the next budget in October.
In heated exchanges during leaders’ question in the Dáil, Mr Doherty called for the Government to produce a “real and comprehensive plan” in a mini budget.
On Tuesday, Mr Martin said Ireland was facing a “new era” of higher fossil fuel prices after EU leaders agreed to ban most Russian oil imports.
The Taoiseach said higher prices were the direct consequence of the war in Ukraine.
Workers and families are struggling with the soaring cost of living, and the Government's response is to tell them to tighten their belts because they aren't going to do anything to help until October at the earliest.
Out of touch and out of time! @PearseDOherty pic.twitter.com/yIZWvMN9LM
— Sinn Féin (@sinnfeinireland) June 1, 2022
Addressing Mr Martin in the Dáil, Mr Doherty said families were facing “soul destroying” choices as they struggled to feed their children.
“As families keep an eye to every euro they spend, yesterday you told them to prepare for a rocky road ahead, to be ready for a new era of high fuel and energy costs,” he said.
“This is astonishing because workers and families have been walking the rocky road of extortionate fuel and energy costs for the best part of a year now.
“To tell people, as you did, who are already struggling to pay their bills, that they will have to tighten their belts even further, is painfully out of touch, while at the same time ruling out from you, Taoiseach, further government action until October at the very earliest.
“Taoiseach, does this government understand the pressure that real families and workers are under right across the state?”
Mr Doherty said families could “not hang on for another five months” for further support measures.
“Taoiseach, the Government’s approach to this crisis has failed,” he added.
“It’s been piecemeal. It’s been slow, it’s been sluggish, and your measures haven’t made a dent in the cost that people face.
“So now is the time Taoiseach, now is the time for a real and comprehensive plan of action.
“We need a mini budget right now aimed at getting costs down right across the board. There is room within the public finances for the Government to act.”
Mr Martin said his remarks about a future of high fuel prices were “honest”.
“It shouldn’t be astonishing, as you have said, to tell the truth,” he said.
“And what I said yesterday was telling the truth about a new era of an increase in pricing around fossil fuels.
“And the reason for that is that this week we will mark the grim milestone of 100 days since Russia’s unjustified illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine.”
He added: “This war is having a very terrible impact on the world, primarily in terms of the deaths of so many Ukrainians and the terrible trauma that they’re experiencing, but also a huge economic cost and disruption, triggering a massive spike in the cost of energy and with a huge increase in the cost of a vast range of other materials affecting food, agriculture, in terms of fertiliser and so on, which all input into our society and economic system and also, most devastating of all, it is causing and will cause a major food security crisis.”
Mr Martin denied the Government had been slow to act, highlighting that the steps it has taken to tackle cost-of-living pressures since last October add up to €2.5 billion.
He told Mr Doherty not to repeat claims from Russian president Vladimir Putin and Russia’s ambassador to Ireland, Yuri Filatov, that western governments were to blame for soaring prices.
“We need to be careful that we don’t fall into the Putin trap of laying all the blame domestically, because he wants western states to buckle, to buckle under the pressure that he deliberately and premeditatedly created,” he said.
“Putin wanted to create an energy crisis. He wants to create a food crisis, and he wants to create a migration crisis, all part of the one immoral and unjustifiable war.”
Addressing the Sinn Féin TD, Mr Martin added: “Your objective is to lay all of the blame on the Government, just like the Russian ambassador did yesterday, exactly just like the Russian ambassador did yesterday – blame the Government or blame the governments of the day.
“But the key point is this – we have taken a lot of measures which you ignore and decide not to acknowledge.”