Republic of Ireland news

Leo Varadkar promises further measures as inflation jumps to 6.7%

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Dominic McGrath, PA

The Dublin government will “offset” the upcoming rise in the carbon tax, Leo Varadkar has told the Dáil.

It comes as new data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) shows that inflation now sits at 6.7%, the largest annual spike since November 2000.

Leaders’ questions in the Dáil focused once again on the pressure faced by families, with Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty urging action from Tánaiste Mr Varadkar.

“The cost-of-living crisis demands an urgent and comprehensive response from government,” he said.

“We do know the government can and must do more.”

He accused the government of being out of touch and called for an emergency budget, as well as the removal of excise duty on home heating oil.

The scheduled rise in the carbon tax in the coming weeks will see the cost of gas rise by 1.50 euro a month and the cost of a tank of home heating oil rise by 20 euro, Mr Varadkar admitted.

He told TDs: “The CSO is just confirming what people have been experiencing in the last six months.”

But he defended the measures so far by the government, pointing to a scheme to boost crop production in Ireland and a cut to excise duty on fuel.

He said: “That isn’t small and it is much greater than has been done by other governments around Europe.”

Mr Varadkar said that the government did plan to mitigate the rise in carbon tax for the most vulnerable, but gave no detail about what it would look like.

“We will bring in measures before May to offset that increase,” he told Mr Doherty.

The questions-and-answers session descended into a row, with Mr Doherty accusing the government of not doing enough.

“The plan that the government currently has to address the price of heating oil to increase it further by 20 euro on the first of May,” he said.

“That is madness and it is driving people to the point of breaking point.”

“We need a mini-budget. We need a government that gets it.”

“No matter what anybody says, you will say we’re out of touch and we don’t get it,” Mr Varadkar responded.

Mr Doherty, who shouted over and interrupted the reply from Mr Varadkar after he pressed him on proposals to cut VAT on fuel, was accused by the Fine Gael leader of wanting to prevent the public hearing his response.

The Sinn Féin Donegal TD was reprimanded by the Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl, who told him to “treat the House with some respect”.

Labour leader Ivana Bacik, addressing Mr Varadkar, also called for government action on the minimum wage.

She said that a “targeted emergency increase” in the €10.50 per hour minimum wage would be one way of “addressing the serious squeeze” on low-income households.

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