Former US President Ronald Reagan said: “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman.”
Our current rate of 8.2pc – the highest in 40 years – conforms with such a description. Commenting on the crisis, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “It will be challenging.”
For some, it may well be crippling. Working people trying to stretch incomes ever further will be bruised by the pinch. Employers attempting to keep factory doors open as costs soar will also feel pain.
The decision in Brussels to sanction Russian oil, by barring two-thirds of imports, will put further upward pressure on costs. However, it would have been morally bankrupt to do anything else.
Moscow supplies 27pc of the EU’s imported oil and 40pc of its gas. The EU currently pays Russia around €400bn a year in return.
Any cut to this is obviously going to put a squeeze on supplies. However difficult it is to be hit in the pocket, the people of Ukraine are paying the ultimate price for Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion. It would be unconscionable to bankroll the indiscriminate bombing and needless bloodshed.
The Russian president is no doubt relishing the misery he is causing. By rocking the energy and food markets, he is condemning millions to hunger and hardship. Globally, governments including our own are being forced to think again about dependence on fossil fuels.
Inflation has been pushed higher by the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has sent energy and commodity prices surging and added to global supply-chain disruption. In tandem with this, the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions has boosted demand across Europe.
The European Central Bank is unsurprisingly flagging interest-rate rises to curb the upward spiral. Yet setting Putin’s malevolent intentions to one side, the world has no choice but to commit to renewable and sustainable energies, given climate-change threats.
As the Taoiseach said: “We’re going to work very hard to create alternative forms of energy… We’ve done well and we’ve got to move much faster now.”
Pressure for wage increases is inevitable given the added stress on living costs. Mr Martin has said further assistance for consumers would not come from the Government until the Budget. A more concerted effort has to be made to establish social solidarity with unions and it must be urgently addressed.
People are desperately struggling to manage. Heaping a cost-of-living crisis on top of core concerns such as housing, childcare and health makes for an exceptional confluence of constraints on living standards. Exceptional times demand innovative and exceptional responses.
Tax cuts and welfare adjustments will have to be examined and tailored for those most in need. Arriving at appropriate solutions will have to be done by agreement with various social partners.
But the Taoiseach is right to be reaching out to unions for exploratory talks in the hope of framing the appropriate strategic approach.