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Thursday 1 June 2023 Dublin: 14°C
Oireachtas TV Tánaiste Micheál Martin speaking during Leaders' Questions.
# Cost of Living
Govt expected to sign off on cost-of-living package next week following 'good discussion'
It comes after the Tánaiste accused Sinn Féin of “clever politics” in the Dáil during a tense exchange over the upcoming package.

LAST UPDATE | Feb 16th 2023, 8:10 PM

THE GOVERNMENT IS expected to sign off on the upcoming cost of living support package next week.

It comes after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Tánaiste Micheál Martin, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan and senior ministers held a “good discussion” on the matter this evening. 

The meeting was attended by the three coalition leaders, Finance Minister Michael McGrath, Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe and Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys.

The Government has said the package will provide some assistance to families, businesses and the most vulnerable.

The cost of living package is set to contain both targeted and universal measures, but is not being billed as a mini budget, with the Taoiseach confirming that the supports will remain within the parameters set out in Budget 2023.

None of the upcoming support measures have yet been confirmed, but it’s understood that Leo Varadkar has said that any decisions made must be both affordable and be sufficient to help people and businesses until the budget in the autumn.

It comes after the Tánaiste accused Sinn Féin of “clever politics” in the Dáil this afternoon during a tense exchange over the upcoming package. 

Sinn Féin had called on the Government to introduce a once-off spring bonus payment for people receiving social welfare payments. However, the motion was voted down earlier this week.

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions, Pearse Doherty began by referencing a report from children’s charity Barnardos.

Published last week, it found that one in ten parents had used food banks in the last 12 months, while one in five said they did not have enough food to feed their children in the same period. 

Government ‘can do more’

“Reflect on what has happened on your Government’s watch. Already saddled with out of control rents, soaring energy bills, high travel costs and the spectre of rising interest rates, it’s an unforgivable situation that families go hungry because they can’t afford to fill the shopping trolley at the end of the week, and that’s the reality of the cost of living crisis,” Doherty said.

“We all know that government can’t do everything, but you can do much more and that is why we need a comprehensive support package now.”

Doherty referenced the Government voting against two Sinn Féin proposals: a proposal to introduce targeted temporary mortgage interest relief for people seeing their mortgage costs rise, and the spring bonus proposal. 

“This proposal will go a long way to supporting those who are suffering at the sharp edge of the cost-of-living crisis. Any Government serious about tackling financial hardship and poverty would have supported this proposal and implemented it. Your Government choose not to.”

Screenshot (225) Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty called on the Government to do more for people struggling during the cost-of-living crisis.

But Martin hit back at Doherty by accusing the party of using a “nice political clever device”. 

“What you have done deputy – a clever device. We all talk about the Christmas bonus. A nice political clever device. ‘Ah, hey presto – spring bonus. Let’s have a summer bonus. Let’s have an autumn bonus’. It’s good politics deputy, but that’s all it is.

Clever politics – attempting to be clever, but I don’t think it fools people.

Martin went on to list many of the measures introduced in Budget 2023 to support those struggling with the cost of living, including “eight separate cost-of-living lump-sum payments throughout October, November and December last year” and a double child benefit and social welfare payment.

“From the beginning of 2002, over €8 billion has been allocated on specific tax and expenditure measures to try and help people. We are going through a cost-of-living crisis. Initially coming out of Covid there was inflationary pressures because of supply chain, hugely exacerbated by the war in Ukraine. Everyone accepts that, in terms of the energy crisis that unfolded. But the government took very significant decisions,” he said.

“We understand, of course, that measures are due to expire at the end of this month. The government will be holding a series of meetings over the coming days to ensure there will not be a cliff edge and it will continue to support families who continue to be under pressure because of the cost of living situation.

“But inflation appears to have peaked, it’s now trending downwards, and that’s something that has to be factored in.”

He added that the proposals in the support package will “deal with people on low incomes” and “target our resources towards low incomes”. 

Speaking yesterday, Varadkar said the measures will be both universal and targeted. 

“Targeted because pensioners, people on low incomes, people who receive social welfare payments are suffering the most from the rising cost of living, particularly because it’s groceries and energy costs that have gone up the most,” he told the Dáil.

“There will be targeted measures, there will be a welfare element to this.

“There will be universal measures as well, because all households – including middle income households – are experiencing the rising cost of living.

“I don’t think it’d be right to say to middle income families that you’re being left out and that we’re doing nothing for you.”

Earlier this week, the Minister for Finance Michael McGrath indicated that the upcoming package would be the final intervention by the Government ahead of Budget 2024.

He told reporters that the Government needed to get the “best possible result” from spending taxpayers’ money on further supports.

“It’s important that whatever we do is affordable, that we manage taxpayers’ money well, that we make decisions to get the best possible result from the use of public money, and that whatever decisions we make in the next week or so represent the final intervention in advance of the next budget in the autumn,” McGrath said.

“I think it’s important that we manage the resources of the country well, and we do so in a carefully considered and structured manner and so this is an important set of decisions that we have to make.”

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