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SF Pearse Doherty people need cash put back in their pockets.

'Government doesn't get it': Opposition parties say cost of living package won't go far enough

The rising cost of living is ‘hurting people in the pocket’, said Leo Varadkar.

SINN FÉIN’S PEARSE Doherty has said the “government doesn’t get it” when it comes to the pressure people are under due to the rising cost of living. 

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions, he said the “government simply doesn’t get it”, telling the Dáil that minsters don’t understand the challenges facing ordinary workers and families.

He hit out at the three coalition leaders stating that while people are struggling to pay their bills, they were “behind closed doors” signing off on a pay increase of €86,000 to the Secretary General of the Department of Health Robert Watt, who is now on a salary of almost €300,000.

Doherty also slammed the Government for the delay in rolling out the €100 energy credit, which he said was announced last year. 

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, in his response, said the Government is very aware of the rising cost of living.

Later today, the Government will announce a number of measures to tackle the rising costs.

“Inflation is running at about 5% at the moment, he said.

As far back as March, Varadkar said he was raising the prospect that inflation was set to rise, which is why he said he pushed for some form of tax cuts in last October’s Budget.

Sinn Féin opposed those tax cuts, he said to Doherty. 

The rising cost of living is “hurting people in the pocket”, said Varadkar.

“It’s hurting with family budgets, a lot of people are really squeezed. And some people are having to make very hard decisions about what they spend their money on, whether it’s energy, fuel, or groceries, and we see it all around us,” he said. 

Varadkar said the additional package to be announced today will help people with the cost of living.

There are broad measures within it “that’s going to help every household because even households on middle incomes are suffering from the rising cost, particularly energy bills”, he said. 

Targeted measures will help those who are suffering the most, older people and people on very low incomes and are on welfare, he said.

“The package that we’re going to announce today will be worth somewhere in the region of €1.4 to €1.5 billion. That is considerable. That is a lot of money that the government is saying we need to give back to people to help them with the rising cost of living,” said Varadkar.

“But I know as well as you do, that no matter what we announce today, it’s not going to be enough. Your press releases are already written… I could write them for you. In fact, it’s probably written days ago,” he said.

It was not only Sinn Féin that was critical of the Government, Labour’s Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said those in low paid work need a pay rise. Those that are forced to commute need a break too, he said. 

The cost of living package won’t go far enough, he added.

“What you’re engaged in is Bertienomics,” said Ó Ríordáin, stating that there should be no tax cuts, something he admitted is not often popular to  say. However, in order for the cost of living to be tackled the State must pay the costs, he argued. .

People Before Profit’s Richard Boyd Barrett said that it is the large corporations and the energy companies that are profiteering off the backs of people who are struggling. 

Varadkar said there was little they could do to deal with the profits of large oil and gas companies outside this jurisdiction, but when it comes to the likes of the ESB, where the State is a shareholder, it shouldn’t be banking record profits, he said. 

The Government has the option of taking a higher dividend from the ESB if that is the case, he added.

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