The cost of living is out of control. Workers and families are at breaking point as they struggle to keep up with sky-high bills. Their quality of life, their ability to plan for their future and their mental health are now really suffering. People are fleeced with extortionate rents and rip-off insurance costs. Childcare fees are the equivalent of a second mortgage, the price of the weekly shop has gone up, while households have been hammered by more than 30 increases in energy and fuel bills just this year. Many people feel they are caught running an unwinnable race with no end. This is no way for people to live.
My colleague, Deputy Kerrane, has an online survey on the cost-of-living crisis. So far, just over a number of days, 14,000 people have responded. I would like to share some of the responses with the Taoiseach.
I am commuting from Quilty Co Clare to Limerick to work. I am paying upwards of €75 on diesel a week, that’s an increase of €15 a week compared to June, the price of food is also rising. I will soon have to buy oil for the house and that price too is also rising. I will not be able to afford my basic needs to survive.
My husband and I both work. We have two kids. Our rent is €1200 per month. Childcare for the two of them is over €1000. We are drowning in debt, car loans and bills. My husband is signed off as he is now suicidal. It is devastating.
I work full time, earning what is considered a decent wage. I'm living month to month using my credit card for any extra spending. No nights out, no family holidays, no fancy house. I work to pay essential living costs. I cannot plan for a rainy day.
This is just a glimpse of what people are going through. In the budget debate, Sinn Féin outlined for the Taoiseach how he could start getting the cost of living under control. We called on him to cut rents and put a month’s rent back into tenants’ pockets through a tax credit but he did nothing for them. We asked him to cut childcare fees by two thirds, but he chose instead to cap fees at their current unaffordable rate. All he did was make it harder for people to light and heat their homes with another carbon tax hike.
People are at the end of their tether. The Taoiseach cannot continue to sit on his hands; he needs to start standing up for people. So far, he has ignored our calls to respond to the cost-of-living crisis but today I am going to try again to get him to respond because I believe he has an opportunity to make a difference on energy costs. There are options. Ba cheart dó VAT a ghearradh mar tá daoine faoi bhrú. Caithfigh an Rialtas sos a thabhairt dóibh. I ask the Taoiseach to temporarily cut VAT to zero on energy bills for the winter months to give people some breathing room. Has he considered this action? Has he discussed it with the European Commission? Temporarily cutting VAT on energy bills would alleviate at least some of the pressure people are under. I ask him to do this as a matter of urgency.