Taoiseach Michéal Martin has warned of a tough winter ahead after the Government survived a no confidence motion in the Dail.
Speaking on RTÉ One’s Prime Time this evening, Mr Martin defended the Government’s record on housing, healthcare and its response to the pandemic and the war in Ukraine after the Dail voted 88-66, with one abstention, against a Sinn Fein motion of no confidence.
During a rapid-fire question and answer session with host Sarah McInerney, he said the electorate does not want another election, stating “many people appreciate what the Government has done in the face of an unprecedented pandemic”.
Taking a swipe at his critics, he added: “We’re a serious government. Fianna Fáil is a serious political party that believes in substance, not shallow politics or PR stunts. I think Sinn Féin is an un-serious party.”
Citing the Government’s response to the war in Ukraine, the pandemic and the cost of living crisis, he added: “What the people need is a cost of living package parallel with the Budget at the end of September.
"If we had a general election now, we wouldn’t have that cost of living package nor would we have a Budget.”
As for the cost of living crisis, he said the Government has allocated €2.5bn so far in measures to help deal with the rising cost of energy, food and other necessities, including increases to the Back to School Allowance.
But he warned that the ongoing war in Ukraine and its impact on energy prices and the global economy poses a serious challenge in the coming months.
He defended the Government’s decision to hold back until the end of September before announcing the cost of living package and Budget as a strategy that will “deliver a comprehensive package to alleviate pressures – particularly to take people through the winter”.
"We think the winter is going to be very difficult...given the energy situation and the Russian approach to gas, for example, we have to look at this in the medium term.
“And I am concerned about the winter,” he said of energy costs.
“We do need a package that will alleviate pressures on families, particularly around child care, social protection,” he said of the once-off cost of living package.
He added that it won’t be until the early spring of 2023 “until we’re out of the woods on this cost of living crisis”, which is being driven by the war in Ukraine.
However, he said the Irish economy has recovered well from the impact of the pandemic and said it will provide a cushion “through the winter period with the resources we have”.
He acknowledged that the housing crisis is “the number one social issue facing this Government” but said his Government is “doing everything we can” to address the problem, which he said remains an issue of shortage of supply.
But he ruled out reinstating the ban on evictions for tenants that was brought in under emergency legislation during the pandemic, saying it would be unconstitutional under the current circumstances.
Asked about the record number of patients on trolleys and waiting lists he said the pandemic has and continues to have a “significant impact” on health services.