1,000 disconnections in first half of this year as minister promises action plan in weeks

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty says 450,000 PAYG customers are being abandoned by Government.

THE DÁIL WAS told today that in the first half of this year over 700 households were disconnected from their electricity and over 300 households had their gas cut off.

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions, Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty called on the Government to ban disconnections this winter for all customers, including pay-as-you-go (PAYG) customers. 

Doherty said bills have skyrocketed and “more and more families are falling behind”.

The possibility of these numbers increasing over the winter months is “very, very real”, he said. 

He criticised the Taoiseach for making “false promises” to the public by stating that no one would be disconnected, stating that disconnections are clearly happening. 

Doherty said the Government has abandoned the 450,000 PAYG customers – stating that those on bill pay have more protections than those on paid meters. 

As winter approaches, he said there is “real fear” among the public about disconnections. 

“Instead of taking responsibility to protect households from disconnection, you tell them to go to their local social welfare officer. To make matters worse, your Green Party colleague, Minister Joe O’Brien went on TV on Sunday and he told people not to look to Government for help, but actually to contact St. Vincent DePaul,” Doherty told Environment Minister Eamon Ryan.

In response, Ryan, who was taking Leaders’ Questions due to the Taoiseach and Tánaiste both being in Brussels today, said cash payments are the best way to see people through the winter, in his view. 

Ryan has indicated that further financial supports will be rolled out with the Energy Poverty Strategy Review due to be be published by the Government in two weeks time. 

“Our department will publish an action plan around energy poverty having listened to the experts in terms of what’s the best way of doing this,” Ryan told reporters yesterday.

“It’s a community, it’s a civil society as well as a government response. That actually is the most important thing we need to get right, and also a clear message, we don’t want anyone going cold this winter.

“We don’t want anyone going without the heat and comfort that they need. If they are in any way in difficulty in that regard, there are supports across a whole range of different ways where they can actually turn to.

“It’s far better to take the advice from the experts to do this in a strategic way, which is what we’re doing. There will be further measures announced in the action plan published in the coming weeks.”

Asked if there will be further financial measures, he said: “Yes, we’re going to look at different measures and the government has always said we have to review this as we proceed.

In the Dáil today, the minister told Doherty that he had been engaging with energy companies over the last number of weeks, stating that if there were easy solutions, that would be great.

“But that’s not the real world,” he said, adding that it is complex and there are different scenarios facing different customers. 

He said he is working on a whole range of different measures to assist those that need it this winter. 

The minister criticised Sinn Féin’s proposals to extend the emergency credit for householders on PAYG meters, with Ryan stating that charities feel this would only put families into further debt difficulties in the long term.

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