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Cowen and Gormley set to clash on heating allowance

ENVIRONMENT Minister John Gormley was last night on a collision course with the Taoiseach over the Green Party's promise to increase payments for poor people to heat their homes.

Brian Cowen yesterday shot down the Greens' long-standing pledge to increase the fuel allowance for social welfare recipients.

But his junior coalition partners remained adamant last night that the commitment -- contained in the Programme for Government -- would be implemented.

The issue is expected to be discussed at a crucial cabinet meeting today on the forthcoming Budget. A major tug of war is expected between the Department of Finance, the Department of Social Protection and the Green Party ministers.

Carbon levy

The Greens have repeatedly promised to compensate social welfare recipients for increases in the cost of home heating oil caused by the carbon levy.

But the Taoiseach appeared less than enthusiastic yesterday.

"There have been increases in the fuel allowance," he said. "Since the last increase, home heating oil prices have reduced."

He also indicated that the Government's focus for dealing with fuel poverty was not centred on the fuel allowance.

The Department of Finance is understood to favour channelling funding into longer-term initiatives, such as improved house insulation.

Mr Gormley claimed this week to have secured compensation for the elderly.

Yet during a 20-minute speech on fuel poverty in the Dail, Energy Minister Eamon Ryan did not give any commitment to upping the allowance.

Irish Independent