Suddenly, inflation – and especially the rise in the cost of energy – has exploded on the political agenda, and will play an important role in the government’s budgetary considerations.
TD says the cost of living has been a smoldering public issue for some time. But as energy prices have skyrocketed in recent months, that has come to the surface a lot.
When the TDs returned from their constituencies to Dáil on Tuesday, they all wanted to talk about one thing.
“The cost of living is increasing dramatically,” Labor leader Alan Kelly said, first out of the pitfalls. “The government truly faces a winter of discontent if it does not act on these issues, which affect people’s daily lives and standard of living.
Sinn Féin is not to be outdone. “Workers and families are being hit by rising electricity and gas prices,” said Louise O’Reilly, TD Dublin Fingal.
“People pay with their noses to light and heat their homes. . . They are currently under enormous pressure. “
Independent TD Mattie McGrath called for “quick action” because “price increases of this magnitude and frequency are utterly unsustainable.”
Ministers rarely, if ever, agree with McGrath in the Dáil exchanges, but Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has this time around.
“I thank the deputy,” he replied. ” He is absolutely right. “
It is not just an Irish problem. Soaring energy prices across Europe – the price of gas in wholesale markets is currently four times its usual level – has prompted governments in the European Union to introduce a series of measures to alleviate pressure on consumers.
France gives 580 million euros to help the poorest households, Spain caps utility bills and Greece offers monthly subsidies to people on low wages.
Here, the government has indicated that it will increase the winter fuel allowance, which is paid from next week, but other social benefits, including the living alone allowance and the child allowance. qualified, are also likely to be increased.
It will also consider extending eligibility for the fuel allowance, with the possibility of a discretionary fund for people in difficulty but who are outside the income thresholds also mentioned. In other words, dealing with the urgent issue of fuel prices will be a big part of next month’s budget.
Currently, the fuel allowance is paid to around 360,000 households and costs the state around 240 million euros per year.
But at € 28 per week currently, even a substantial increase will not entirely mitigate the rising fuel and heating costs for many people, which TDs say adds hundreds to people’s heating and electricity bills. .
Pressure on households is also expected to be felt in other areas of consumer spending, as inflation begins to weigh on the economy. This will likely become one of the most pressing, if not the most pressing, political issues of the fall.
The government’s recent struggles, which lasted for weeks, were sparked by the botched appointment of Katherine Zappone to a post few had heard of.
It obsessed the media and the political class for weeks. But the cost of heating their home is likely to matter much more to ordinary people. Therefore, it is of much greater political importance.