Yesterday, I asked the Taoiseach to cancel the carbon tax hike scheduled for 1 May. Struggling households are under huge pressure trying to pay soaring energy bills. The very last thing they need is the Government adding to that pressure with a tax hike. Yesterday, the Taoiseach refused to cancel that increase and indicated that the Government is determined to press ahead with it. In that decision, the Government is ignoring the fact that every single euro counts for workers and families and that many households are literally down to the cents. If the Government proceeds with this, it will push ahead in the full knowledge that low-income workers, older people and rural communities have been hit especially hard.
The Taoiseach did acknowledge yesterday that what he termed a "wider initiative" is required to tackle this unprecedented cost-of-living crisis, which has been driven by inflation levels not seen since the 1980s and exacerbated by Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine. I am glad the Taoiseach has finally recognised the need for a comprehensive set of measures and an inclusive process to get the living costs down. This comes after months of resisting Sinn Féin's calls for exactly such a package. In February, we brought forward a broad suite of measures that would make a real difference and bring genuine relief and breathing space for households. We urged the Government to adopt these measures, which are realistic and deliverable. The Taoiseach refused to do that. We proposed a mini-budget that would target those areas during this crisis. Does the Taoiseach now accept the need for a mini-budget? Has the Government moved from its position of waiting until October to act? In other words, when will see this comprehensive set of measures? Will these measures include targeted cost-of-living payments to lower and middle-income workers and families? Will it include relief for renters? Will it include relief for childcare costs? We have proposed cutting these initially by one third. That is necessary to give parents breathing space. Above all, urgency is required on this matter because the fuel allowance is due to end on Friday. It is crucial that this payment is extended, initially for six weeks at the least, and that eligibility for it is expanded.
Tá mion-bhuiséad ag teastáil uainn chun dul i ngleic leis na réimsí atá i gcroílár na géarchéime sa chostas maireachtála. Laghdóidh íocaíochtaí airgid díreach agus gníomhartha ó thaobh cíosanna, cúram páistí agus an liúntas breosla an costas maireachtála do gach duine.
The Government can of course introduce a mini-budget to deliver direct cost-of-living payments, to cut rents and childcare fees and to extend the fuel allowance, but it must also scrap the carbon tax increase due on May Day. Although the Taoiseach clearly attaches little importance to this increase, the backbenchers in his own party and, it seems, in Fine Gael, have a very different view on this matter. I am asking the Taoiseach to seize the moment, to introduce measures that will cushion households and help give them some breathing space and, of course, to cancel the hike in carbon tax.