Cate McCurry, PA
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said the global inflation crisis will not end following the budget, warning Ireland will be “grappling” with the crisis for “months, if not years ahead”.
Defending the Government’s response to the cost-of-living crisis, the Fine Gael leader said the coalition has done more than other similar countries.
He added there is only so much ministers can do to help ease the pressures on household finances and struggling families.
He also hinted that this year’s budget could be brought forward, after he referred to it taking place in the autumn several times.
He told the Dáil that the Government will bring in measures which will take effect “almost immediately” in the days after the budget.
However, he was criticised by Sinn Féin’s finance spokesman, Pearse Doherty, who said families are struggling now and will face further pressure due to back-to-school costs.
“Families are in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis and many parents find themselves under serious financial pressure,” Mr Doherty said.
“For parents whose number one priority is their children, times are very tough.
“I’ve said it before, that the cost-of-living crisis is happening right here, right now.
“But workers and families can’t afford to wait any longer and there’s a serious concern that, faced with the cost-of-living crisis, families will face real difficulties in making back-to-chool costs.
“Many parents are viewing their child returning to school in August with a sense of dread.
“School booklets began to arrive last week and this week in many households right across the state.
“No parent should dread their child’s return to school but that’s what’s happening in so many households.”
Mr Doherty referred to one woman in Cork who faces back-to-school costs of €1,700.
A survey carried out last year by the Irish League of Credit Unions found that parents are spending up to €1,500 per child to send them back to school.
Mr Doherty said a quarter of these families were going into debt to cover the costs.
Mr Varadkar said he acknowledged that the cost of living is rising in Ireland and “rising very fast”.
“Indeed, this is the case all around the world and governments are doing their best to deal with that,” he added.
“But there’s only so much that any government can do.
“The Government has acted already. I think, if you compare what we’ve done in Ireland relative to what’s been done in similar countries, we’ve done just as much, if not more.
“We had the budget package which kicked in January, an increase in the minimum wage, reductions in income tax, increases in the pension and welfare payments, including targeted payments such as living alone allowance and the fuel allowance.
“Other things will take effect before the budget in the autumn. School clothing and footwear allowance will be available for those who are eligible for it. We’ve increased the funding for that significantly in recent years.
“We want a set of actions that will take effect almost immediately in the days and weeks after budget day, to help people through the winter in particular, and then a series of more regular moves that will take effect in January.”