Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Social Protection and Social Equality, Willie O’Dea TD, has called on Minster Joan Burton to put in place measures, before the Dáil resumes next month, to tackle the fuel crisis facing thousands of families this year.
Last year’s budget placed a €5 increase per tonne in carbon tax, with the tax only affecting many fuels, including fuel oil and natural gas, since the start of May.
Deputy O’Dea commented: “Now is the time for the Minster to act, another fuel crisis must be averted, many elderly people in particular will be under severe pressure during the winter months.
“There are over 2,000 excess winter deaths in Ireland each year, which is totally unacceptable. Many of these are older people dying from cold-related illnesses such as pneumonia, heart attack and stroke. One of the main reasons so many elderly people are dying is because they simply cannot afford to pay their fuel costs.
“The Government promised to complete and publish a strategy to tackle fuel poverty in their manifesto for Government yet all they have done is to increase the carbon tax. I find it baffling that an increase in the carbon tax can in any way tackle fuel poverty.
“On top of this the Government cut the fuel allowance period from 32 weeks to 26, I really fear we will see more excess winter deaths this year because of Government inaction on tackling fuel poverty.
“There is no point waiting until the budget for decisions to be made, Minister Burton needs to deal with this now. Elderly people relied on the fuel allowance to be able to heat their homes, the Government can’t cut the fuel allowance and increase carbon tax while claiming to be dealing with this.
“The elderly people of Ireland won’t be able to survive having their incomes and benefits slashed in this way. Low income families are feeling the brunt of the Government’s punitive policies, there is no fuel strategy, what the Government came forward with was laughable.
“Charities like St Vincent De Paul are spending millions every year helping families keep their houses warm, these charities are at breaking point and they need some help from the Government to alleviate the inevitable suffering many people, particularly elderly people, will suffer this winter. The time for action is now and Minister Burton must do something to avert this crisis.