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Government is ‘listening to ordinary people’ amid cost of living pressures

The Minister for Public Expenditure defended support measures for families struggling with soaring bills.

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Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath leaves RTE Radio One in Dublin, following a traditional post-budget phone in (Brian Lawless/PA)

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath leaves RTE Radio One in Dublin, following a traditional post-budget phone in (Brian Lawless/PA)

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath leaves RTE Radio One in Dublin, following a traditional post-budget phone in (Brian Lawless/PA)

A Cabinet minister has insisted the Government is listening to ordinary people as he rejected claims its cost of living measure barely scratch the surface of the crisis.

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath defended the package of supports announced earlier this month as he responded to criticism from Sinn Fein in the Dail.

Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty accused the Government of living in “dreamland” if he thought the measures went far enough.

He also raised concern that children were facing the “sharp edge” of escalating costs of living, as many parents struggled to put food on the table while pay soaring household bills.

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Sinn Fein finance spokesman Pearse Doherty (Niall Carson/PA)

Sinn Fein finance spokesman Pearse Doherty (Niall Carson/PA)

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Sinn Fein finance spokesman Pearse Doherty (Niall Carson/PA)

“The package announced by government doesn’t go far enough, it barely scratches the surface,” said Mr Doherty said during leaders’ questions.

The multi-million euro package of measures announced by Government two weeks ago will see the rebate on household energy bills increase to 200 euro, including VAT.

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Public transport fares are also set to be cut by 20% from April for the rest of the year.

People already in receipt of the fuel allowance are set to receive an additional payment of 125 euro.

Those eligible for the drug payment scheme, which places a cap on the maximum a family can pay on medicines a month, will see the limit reduced from 100 euro to 80 euro.

The working family payment budget increase announced in the budget will also be brought forward from June to April.

The Government has also reduced caps for multiple children on school transport fees to 500 euro per family for post primary schools and 150 euro for primary school children.

Mr Doherty questioned why the Government had not gone further and backed measures advocated by his party, such as a freeze on rents or a cut to childcare costs.

“A one-off energy credit paid in March or April is better than nothing, but it won’t make a dent when people are paying thousands to light and heat their homes,” he added.

I represent ordinary people, I get elected by ordinary people, this government represents ordinary people, we are listening to themMichael McGrath

The Sinn Fein TD also criticised the recent indication from Taoiseach Micheal Martin that no further cost of living measures would be announced before the budget in the autumn.

“The Government needs to get a reality check, you need to wake up and you need to understand where ordinary people are at, because you’re living in dreamland if you think that people can hang on and wait until next October until you announce next year’s budget,” he said.

“Families and children need a far better intervention from government to bring down the cost of living and they really need that right here, right now. That’s what the call is for.”

Mr McGrath responded with a robust defence of the measures.

“I represent ordinary people, I get elected by ordinary people, this government represents ordinary people, we are listening to them,” he said.

“That is why we have responded in the best way that we can so far with a set of universal measures, but also a set of targeted measures, including those introduced outside of the annual budget.”

The minister criticised alternative budget proposals tabled by Sinn Fein last year, claiming they would have increased the tax burden on families rather than reducing it.

He also accused the party of adopting a “duplicitous” and “disingenuous” position on the carbon tax.

Mr McGrath said while Sinn Fein consistently opposes increases in the tax the party never actually calls for its abolition.

“That is typical of the cynical politics that you are pursuing,” he told Mr Doherty.


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