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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 11°C
Social Democrat leader Holly Cairns

So-called 'supermarket price war' is more like 'phony battle of convenience', Dáil hears

Cairns also questioned state agencies’ ability to tackle opportunist profiteering.

THE GOVERNMENT IS failing to address the main cause behind the rising cost of living, according to Social Democrat leader Holly Cairns, who said the primary driver is ‘greedflation’. 

“What started as a cost-of-living crisis has now become a cost-of-greed crisis,” she told the Dáil today during Leaders’ Questions.

“Entire industries are taking advantage of this crisis by inflating their prices to unsustainable levels. The ECB is now warning that profiteering by companies is the main driver of inflation.

“This is ‘greedflation’ plain and simple, and people are suffering as a result,” she said.

Cairns also questioned state agencies’ ability to tackle opportunist profiteering. 

“The Competition and Consumer Protection commission repeatedly tells us it has no role in even monitoring price levels. The government is now planning to introduce a food regulator that will be similarly toothless,” she said. 

“What are you doing to counteract the spiraling inflation and out of control costs? Will you give the proposed new regulator the powers it needs to investigate what is really happening within supply chains?” she asked. 

Tánaiste Micheál Martin, who took Leaders’ Questions today, defended the government’s attempts to alleviate the financial pressure many people are under, pointing to policies aimed at providing free school books and meals as examples.

“There are very targeted measures to deal with those most in need in respect of food and respect of heating, energy and a variety of other supports. And we have introduced about eight separate cost of living lump sum payments over the last 12 months,” he said.

Martin also defended the oversight bodies’ ability to regulate price inflation. 

“There are agencies and the consumer competition agency is there. The new food ombudsman regulator is not toothless, and will be there in terms of creating transparency around the issue of food prices,” he said. 

Martin also blamed rising costs on the fuel crisis brought about by the war in Ukraine, as well as the hangover from supply chain shocks caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“Inflation has been multifactorial, it’s not just greed inflation. There’s an element of that, without doubt, and that’s why we have a windfall tax in respect of energy companies to pull back excessive profits on the backs of the crisis, but it has been multifactorial,” he said.

Cairns, however, said that while the government’s measures were relieving some of the most acute financial strain on households, they were not addressing the primary cause of inflation and that as a result working people, not corporations, were the ones suffering the most. 

“The biggest price increases have not been to luxury products. They’ve been to basics like butter, bread and pasta,” she said. 

“Now the supermarkets have decided en masse to decrease the prices of milk and butter. This so called supermarket price war looks more like a phony battle of convenience. They want to give the illusion of action while continuing to clean up.

“A tiny decrease in butter and milk isn’t the answer to this.”

Meanwhile, in an example of corporations doing well, oil giant Shell made nearly $1.7 billion (€1.59 billion) more in profit than experts had expected in the first three months of the year, the company said today.

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