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People must be ‘weaned off’ winter crisis supports, says Green Party leader Eamon Ryan


Green Party leader and climate minister Eamon Ryan

Green Party leader and climate minister Eamon Ryan

Green Party leader and climate minister Eamon Ryan

IRISH people have to be “weaned off” emergency cost-of-living measures and energy supports, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has told the Dáil.

The climate minister said the package of about 12 measures had worked, as verified by the ESRI in an analysis, and while the Government had promised no ‘cliff-edge’ at the end of next month, “we have to wean ourselves off.”

Mr Ryan added: “We don't know what's going to happen in the next this year coming. Please God the war will come to an end. Nobody knows where things will go on energy prices.”

They had come down very significantly in recent weeks, he said, but would take time to feed through into domestic power bills.

“We have said clearly that we have continued to protect our people, but we should not just go down the road of popular solutions where we'll never raise another tax. We won't reverse any of the VAT cuts. Because, in the end, that would lead us into a position where our economy would not be sound, or we would not be able to protect or provide for people in the future.”

There was a new to restore and retain the income stream to pay for public services, he said, after being questioned by both Peadar Tóibín of Aontú and Mattie McGrath of the Rural Independents Group.

The Government had faced up to its responsibilities to the people during Covid, he said, but it also had a responsibility to the basic economic protection of the State’s finances, he said.

“So you provide the measures when you need them. And we unwound the Covid measures in the way that worked. And that's what we will do again this spring, which we will need to do. And obviously we will be attentive if circumstances change.

“But for simple promises that you'd never reverse a single measure, that reckless way would really endanger our people.”

It would not be a cliff-edge, but neither would it be “on the never-never, where you put it off, and say we won't do it now because it's politically unpopular.”

A number of Government credits, subsidies and moratoria are due to end at the end of February, with the Taoiseach saying on Wednesday that some would be retained while others would be ended.

Mr Ryan listed some of them from last autumn’s economic package: “We were able to do something by reducing excise, by reducing VAT, by reducing public transport fares, reducing the cost of childcare, providing each household with €800 upfront credit payments, by increasing social welfare payments, both in one-off and permanent e rises, by introducing restrictions and moratoriums on cut-offs of energy and other measures - I could go on.

“It was a whole range of different measures that the ESRI and others have analysed, and said. ‘Actually, they got it right,’” he claimed. “’They actually protected particularly the most vulnerable in this incredible unprecedented time.’”

But Mr Tóibín said the Government and the Greens were taking more in VAT and fuel taxes than they did in any previous year, according to the latest statistics.

“The VAT on electricity last year reached record heights of €381 million,” he said.

“People struggling to pay for heating of their homes pay 40pc more in VAT on electricity last year than the previous year. Hard-pressed motorists are paying 30pc more on petrol than they did in the previous year, and on diesel 20pc more.

“Solid fuels are reaching record highs. And this is before we even talk about the Government's imposition of carbon taxes. Yes, you gave a few bob back but you pilfered that money in truth from people's pockets in the first place. And many people are looking nervously on the planned increase in fuel excise duty that the Government has in mind from the end of February.” He called on Mr Ryan to categorically state there would be no excise rise on motor fuels from March 1.

Mattie McGrath TD echoed that the special retention of the low VAT rate of 9pc in hospitality was also due to end with February. Businesses in this area employed 265,000 people, he said, adding that they needed certainty.

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