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Friday 29 September 2023 Dublin: 15°C
Screengrab of Eamon Ryan responding to Pearse Doherty during today's Leaders' Questions.
# Leaders' Questions
Green Party leader accuses Sinn Féin of 'following Tory approach' with energy price cap plan
Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty responded by saying that Minister Ryan is ‘in bed with the Irish Tories’.

LAST UPDATE | Sep 21st 2022, 3:57 PM

GREEN PARTY LEADER Eamon Ryan has accused Sinn Féin of “following the Tory government approach” in advocating for an energy price cap.

The UK government announced today an energy price cap for homes in Northern Ireland, which will begin in November but be backdated to October.

Minister Ryan said Sinn Féin’s plan is “pretty much the same policy” that Jacob Rees-Mogg outlined for Northern Ireland this morning.

‘Act decisively’

Speaking in the Dáil during Leaders’ Questions this afternoon, Sinn Féin’s Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said the government needs to “act decisively”  to combat “scandalous hikes by profiteering energy companies”.

He called for energy prices to be capped at “pre-crisis levels” of the summer of 2021 to get “families through this winter”.

Deputy Doherty described it as a “straight-forward plan” that is happening in “many other European countries”.

‘Tory approach’

In response, Environment Minister Eamon Ryan described an energy price cap as a “Tory give-away”.

He said it was “pretty much the same policy” that Jacob Rees-Mogg outline for Northern Ireland this morning.

Minister Ryan added that it “would benefit the better off who tend to use more energy” and that it would “benefit the energy industries”.

“What we need to do is apply windfall charges and actually get that money back to our people, rather than providing a cap where they get a free pass,” said the Green Party leader.

“It is simple your plan, but I don’t think it’s the right one,” he added.

The Environment Minister also said that the “real story here is that Vladimir Putin is looking to divide Europe” and that the public must be reminded that the Russian government is using “energy as a weapon of war”.

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty then claimed that Minister Ryan was “Tories on the brain, maybe because you’re in bed with the Irish Tories here”.  

He said that people in the North will now have “certainty in terms of their bills”, but also pointed to several other European countries like France, Polan, Denmark and Holland that have also introduced price caps this winter.

“So explain to me,” said Deputy Doherty, “why do you oppose what Austria has done? What France has done, what Poland has done? What the Danes or what Slovakia is going to do?”

Minister Ryan in response said that “every country has slightly different circumstances” and that the “plan presented by the Commission for the immediate response in the next six months is the right one”.

The exchange between Minister Ryan and Deputy Doherty ended with a call “for a little bit of decorum” by the Ceann Comhairle.

Party leaders

When questioned about whether he agreed with Minister Ryan’s comments today, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he thinks with the Green Party leader said was “a factual statement”. 

“I can understand why people would like to see price caps, but the difficulty in price caps is we’ve no idea how high the price of energy will go. And we don’t actually control that because the oil and gas is brought in from overseas,” Varadkar said. 

“So if you have a price cap, the government has to be willing to say that it will pay the amount over the cap, no matter what it is. That, as the Taoiseach said, is a blank cheque, it’s a contract for difference. It’s the thing that brought down Anglo Irish Bank, it’s reminiscent to the bank guarantee,” he said. 

The Tánaiste said he would be “very, very nervous going down that road”. 

“It might be popular for a while, but it might be the thing that brings back austerity and start something we don’t want to every see in our country again,” he said. 

Reacting to Varadkar’s comments, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald he is “wrong”. 

McDonald said price caps should be in place until the end of February. 

“It is a temporary measure, it is an emergency measure, but it is a necessary one,” the Sinn Féin leader said. 

“The reality is that people all across the country … are really worried by two things. Firstly, the inability to pay the bills as they are now, and then the terror that there will, in fact, be another price hike through the autumn and into the winter,” she said. 

“For us, this is just a sensible and a necessary intervention.”

With reporting by Hayley Halpin and Lauren Boland 

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