THE Government doesn’t have the resources to continue all the reliefs and reductions introduced last year in the face of the crippling cost-of-living crisis, the Taoiseach has told the Dáil.
“We will work out which measure we can continue and which ones we can’t,” he said, defying Opposition calls for him to be more specific.
“Those are very legitimate and fair questions to ask, but I can’t answer them because the Government hasn’t met,” he said.
But he said the reduction in childcare costs, for instance, was permanent, “and I would like to go further.”
The assessment of all reliefs would be done in the next few weeks so that people could have clarity before the end of February, he said.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald told the Dáil that the cost-of-living crisis “hasn’t gone away.”
The Society of St Vincent de Paul is receiving the highest number of cries for help since the financial crash, she said.
The hiking of the European Central Bank interest rates, expected next week, will worsen the problem, she said. “Even though there are more hikes to come, Government refuses to bring forward any mortgage relief measures,” she said.
Government supports were coming to an end, while people were coming to the door on canvasses with their “extortionate” gas bills in hand, she said.
“After two years of people being hammered by soaring living costs, people need clarity,” she said.
“You’ve said there’ll be no cliff edge, but people need to see the plan.”
Mr Varadkar said the cost of living was coming up on the doors for Fine Gael’s own canvassers, to the exclusion of other issues.
He said inflation was slowing, but “it’s just that prices are going up less fast than they were earlier.”
But he said Government was here to help. “We can do so because our economy is strong,” he said, adding that income taxes were going down, and people would see that in their wage packets this month.
There were five things that the Government had done in recent times.
It had significantly reduced the cost of childcare by around 25pc, he said, helping a lot of families.
“We've increased the pension by €12 a week. In fact, all weekly payments have been increased by €12 - our weekly welfare payments increased by €12 a week,” the Taoiseach said.
“About 70,000 elderly people now qualify for the fuel allowance that didn't last year.
“Income taxes have gone down and people will see that their pay slips this week this year if they haven't already.”
The rent tax credit of €500 was also now available to hundreds of thousands of renters, he said.
Mr Varadkar told Ms McDonald: “All of these measures are permanent and they don't end at the end of February.”
He added, however: “You are correct to say that others will expire at the end of February. And I've said it twice that there won't be a cliff edge in that regard.
“We're not going to be able to continue everything. We just don't have the resources to do so. But there isn't going to be a cliff edge.”