De réir mar a mhéadaíonn praghsanna fuinnimh mar gheall ar an gcogadh, fuair an Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, amach go bhfuil duine as achan trí teaghlaigh anois ag maireachtáil i mbochtaineacht fuinnimh agus diúltaíonn an Rialtas seo gníomhú. Tá níos mó daoine ag titim isteach i mbochtaineacht fuinnimh agus iad ag streachailt leis an ngéarchéim chostais maireachtála agus tá seo do-ghlactha. D'iarr Sinn Féin arís agus arís ar an Rialtas seo cáinaisnéis éigeandála a thabhairt chun tosaigh, a thabharfadh faoiseamh do na teaghlaigh agus do na hoibrí seo atá ag streachailt. Tá saoránaigh ar fud na tíre seo ag iarraidh Rialtas a thacaíonn leo agus a chuireann in ord tosaíochta iad ach tá Rialtas againn atá ag fágáil ar leataobh iad.
As the Tánaiste hosted a private dinner last night to celebrate Fine Gael's decade in power, the ESRI was finalising its report on energy poverty in this State as prices increase at the fastest rate in 40 years. Today's report found the average household is now spending €2,000 more on fuel and energy, and this could increase by another €1,500. Prices are through the roof and people are struggling. One in three households now lives in energy poverty and this could rise to a staggering 43%, as the ESRI said this morning. The report states, "As fuel bills go up, it is people and families on lower incomes that suffer the most." It goes on to say, "In rapidly increasing numbers, households are facing the choice between putting food on the table, buying back-to-school clothes or heating their home."
Today's report paints a picture that is undeniable. Households who were already at the edge are now being plunged into energy poverty. This is the Ireland of today, with people, including working families, skipping meals or queueing for food parcels, something they never thought they would have to do. They are having to do it because the State is not supporting them but letting them fall through the cracks, and those cracks are getting wider. While Fine Gael toasted its success in government last night, the reality is many families are being pushed to the brink. The last thing they are thinking about is raising a glass to Fine Gael's success because they are worried about how to get to the end of the week, pay the bills at the end of the month or put food on the table for their children.
Facing these pressures, these families are confronted by a Government which refuses to take further action now. The Government has repeatedly ruled out measures to support households until October at the earliest, despite Sinn Féin calling on it week after week to take such measures. That is not sustainable, nor is it acceptable for those tens of thousands of families pushed to the brink. The Government is allowing struggling households to wither on the vine and its message to them amounts to "Buckle up because you're on your own". Government has a moral duty to support those who are struggling and protect the most vulnerable, but those who need it most have been left behind. This Government has refused to act.
I plead with the Tánaiste to change course and bring forward an emergency budget with the measures Sinn Féin has proposed, including cost-of-living cash payments to lower and middle-income households and a social welfare package that protects the most vulnerable from the cost-of-living crisis. Will the Tánaiste change course? Will the penny finally drop? Will he wake up, take action and understand that people cannot wait a further four months for him to bring forward a budget, and then whatever time after for him to implement it?