Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Social Protection and Social Equality, Willie O’Dea TD, says the current poor weather conditions in the country highlight the Government’s folly in cutting the Fuel Allowance.

Budget 2012 saw the Fuel Allowance window cut by 6 weeks and this year the period will end next Friday April 5th.

Deputy O’Dea commented: “The current cold snap in Ireland highlights the folly of the Government slashing the Fuel Allowance period by 6 weeks. From next Friday, 375,000 households throughout the country will have their fuel allowance cut off despite the fact we are in the middle of a bitterly cold snap of weather.

“The Fuel Allowance enables people to heat their homes for a few extra hours a week, this is by no means a luxury and no account was taken for extreme weather conditions when the period was slashed by 6 weeks.

“Over the past number of years, Ireland has been subjected to extreme weather conditions and a contingency plan should have been put in place to cater for an extra cold period.

“There are over 2,000 excess winter deaths in Ireland each year, many of these are older people dying from cold-related illnesses such as pneumonia. A huge contributory factor is people simply cannot afford to pay their heating and electricity costs, which have risen considerably over the last couple of years.

“I am calling on the Minister to urgently review this and consider extending the Fuel Allowance period by at least 3 weeks or until the current cold snap finishes. It is not too late to change; having the benefit of the Fuel Allowance for an extra few weeks would provide people with some security and help to reduce the threat of illness because of the harsh weather conditions.”