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Government will engage with Electric Ireland about its planned price hike, says Taoiseach

Electric Ireland is set to increase prices by an average of 3.4% from October.

Sinn Féin is calling for a price freeze on all utilities.
Sinn Féin is calling for a price freeze on all utilities.
Image: Shutterstock/Pixel-Shot

THE GOVERNMENT WILL engage with Electric Ireland about its plan to increase prices by an average of 3.4% from October.

The company said this will equate to an increase of €2.88 a month on the average residential electricity bill. 

During the first Leaders’ Questions since the Dáil returned from the summer recess, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the move by Electric Ireland will add further financial pressure on families.

“Sinn Féin believes that a freeze on energy prices during the current Covid-19 pandemic should be introduced,” she said.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the Government did not make the decision to hike electricity prices, but said:

“We will do everything we can, as we have, in a historic and unprecedented way to support people in difficulty. That is the Government’s objective as we go through an unprecedented global pandemic.”

“I fully accept that this news will come as a blow to many consumers in the light of the very significant and severe economic environment within which we are operating,” said Martin.

He said the Government will engage with Electric Ireland on the matter and its overall plans.

McDonald said there are big fears among the public that this particular hike will kick-start a deluge of price increases.

“In blunt terms, that would lead to many families finding it incredibly difficult to heat their homes or to turn on a light during a winter that falls in the middle of a global pandemic,” she said.

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“Eurostat tells us that consumers in Ireland already pay some of the highest electricity prices in Europe. Members are aware that hundreds of thousands of people live in what is referred to as fuel poverty but which means they struggle or are unable to heat their homes.

“It should be noted also that the Government is planning to introduce a significant hike in the carbon tax in the upcoming budget and that this will put increased pressure on those same families,” she added.

“One cannot blame people, therefore, for thinking that, even in the grip of a public health emergency, rip-off Ireland is alive and well and that big companies will make sure they get their pound of flesh.

“People hear the words of solidarity and the slogan that we are all in this together and they see the comforting television adverts from companies telling them not to worry or stress and that their service provider has their back, but then their bills go up again,” said McDonald.

Rather than hiking prices, energy providers should be working with their customers, she said. 

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