Opposition parties on Tuesday lambasted the Government, accusing it of overseeing a cost-of-living crisis.
At leaders’ questions in the Dail, Taoiseach Micheál Martin was accused of “not living in the real world” amid warnings of long-term inflation hitting people’s pockets.
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald told the Fianna Fail leader the cost of living has become “unbearable”, and accused the coalition Government of lacking urgency on the issue.
She said that, two years on from the Irish general election, “people see that these crises in housing and health have only gotten worse”.
She said: “People are under huge pressure as they’re hammered by non-stop price hikes in every area and the living standard of workers and families is squeezed by the highest rate of inflation in 20 years, and a lack of government action.”
Referencing Mr Martin’s own rhetoric last Friday as he announced the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions, she said: “For far too many people, being ourselves again means the stress and the struggle of trying to keep up with soaring costs while wages stay the same.
“The yearly cost of putting food on the table is to go up by nearly 800 euro, the cost of running a car by an average of 500 euro. Record rents up by 8.1%. Families paying the equivalent of a second mortgage in childcare costs. The cost of lighting and heating your home up a massive 53%
A one-off 100 euro credit for energy bills, she said, would not abate the situation for families and households.
Labour leader Alan Kelly also seized on the same issue, rubbishing the Government’s defence that inflation has been driven by international factors.
“It is not an excuse that we want. It is solutions,” Mr Kelly told Mr Martin.
“I honestly don’t think you’re living in the real world,” he said.
“Even international factors that have an impact on families and workers in this country, it is your job to deal with them, to deal with what is real.”
He called the current Government policy on the cost of living a “joke” and called for a rent freeze, as well as a derogation of VAT on energy costs.
Taoiseach clearly doesn't accept or understand that there is a cost of living crisis. Taoiseach more concerned about the prospect of 'spiralling out of control wages' !!! Irony much!! More of the same old same— Mary Lou McDonald (@MaryLouMcDonald) January 25, 2022
Mr Martin, responding to the Sinn Fein and Labour leaders, said: “This Government has embarked in a step change in relation to housing.”
Hitting back at Ms McDonald’s criticism over spiralling waiting lists, he said: “You omitted completely any reference to the fact that our health service has stood up to a one-in-a-hundred-year event, the pandemic.”
He also accused Sinn Fein of opposing recent housing developments and said the Government had introduced “targeted interventions” in recent months to support families.
The Taoiseach just doesn't get it - @alankellylabour— The Labour Party (@labour) January 25, 2022
The families struggling to pay their utilities, run their car or buy groceries need this Government to come up with solutions to this #CostOfLivingCrisis
Work must pay 🌹👇 pic.twitter.com/hhJu9QDR6O
“We have to avoid a wages spiral that will just create a further inflation spiral,” Mr Martin said.
“We have to think intelligently as a country as to how we protect families.”
Mr Kelly rejected this argument, warning that people will suffer if further actions are not taken.
“Workers have every right to look for pay increases to deal with inflation because your Government will not deal with it, and you can’t sit there and say that they shouldn’t.
“They will. They can. They must. Because you will not deal with it.”