Tá muintir na hÉireann ag tabhairt ar na sráideanna agus tá siad ag éileamh ar an Rialtas beart a dhéanamh le dul i ngleic leis na fadhbanna móra ó thaobh na géarchéime costais mhaireachtála. Má dhéanann an Rialtas praghsanna leictreachais a ghearradh go dtí an leibhéal a bhí siad roimh an ngéarchéim agus iad a choinneáil ag an leibhéal sin le linn an gheimhridh, tabharfaidh sé faoiseamh agus cinnteacht do theaghlaigh a bhfuil eagla orthu ó thaobh arduithe breise le linn an gheimhridh seo.
Last weekend in Cork, 5,000 people marched against the Government’s failure to tackle the soaring cost of living. I have no doubt that thousands more will take to the streets in the capital city of Dublin this Saturday for the very same reason. Many of those who marched in Cork on Saturday had never protested before but they felt that they had no other choice. They told their stories of cutting back on essentials, of going without or of barely just getting by. I want to share some of the stories that they told the media over the past number of days.
The people are being robbed. I'm frightened. I have to do without certain things to pay my electricity bill. I'm dreading the coming winter.
It's going back to the 1950s. In the 50s, when you got up in the morning, there was only the fire to keep the whole house warm, freezing cold floors and cold running water. It's going back to that time.
Do we should just buy a load of candles instead of turning on the lights. It is at that point for me, not turning on the immersion and washing in cold water in the middle of winter.
The cost of electricity, fuel, food is frightening. If you run a car, I really feel for anyone on a State pension, they're afraid. People are living hand to mouth. You can't budget when you don't know what is coming down the road.
“When you don't know what is coming down the road” - that one sentence sums up all of the fears and worries that households are feeling across the State as they try to cope. It is easy to see why people are afraid. It is so simple; just look at what they are facing. Rents, and food and energy prices are going up. The fear is especially real when it comes to the extortionate electricity bills that households face. People are absolutely outraged when they see the scandalous hikes in standing charges by big profiteering energy companies that they are inflicting on households. These hikes are ensuring that people are fleeced even if they do all that they can to cut back on their energy use. The Government needs to act decisively. It needs to cut electricity prices back to pre-crisis level and cap them at that level to help get families through this winter.
This is a simple and straightforward plan to help more than 2 million households reduce their electricity bills at a time it is most needed. Sinn Féin’s plan would give certainty to households this winter. The Minister knows that this is possible. When I raised it with him last week on the floor of the Dáil, I told him it was happening in many other European countries. In the past 48 hours, the Dutch and the Danes have announced price certainty for their citizens. Cutting and capping electricity prices makes sense.
What households need now is clarity. What households are begging for is certainty - certainty that they will be able to make it through the winter. That is what a cap will do - reduce electricity prices to pre-crisis levels and fix them at that right throughout the winter. It is the right choice. It is the choice that a growing number of countries across Europe are making. I ask the Minister again if he will act to cut electricity bills back to the summer of 2021 levels and cap them at that level through the winter until the end of February.