Government engaged in “social vandalism” on fuel support schemes - Independent TD

250,000 homes retrofitted and €50 million investment for 25,000 more - Tánaiste

Eamon Gilmore said Séamus Healy’s comments were ’seriously over the top’. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

Eamon Gilmore said Séamus Healy’s comments were ’seriously over the top’. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

Fri, Oct 11, 2013, 01:14

The Government was accused of “an act of social vandalism” over its policy on fuel poverty as gas costs increased dramatically since 2011.

Independent TD Séamus Healy made the claim as he highlighted cuts in each of the past three years in heating supports including the fuel scheme and free units of electricity. Gas prices had risen by 32.5 per cent since 2011 and electricity by 24.2 per cent in the same period, while household energy bills had risen €500 for each family in the same period.

Mr Healy also called on Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore to ask the Central Statistics Office and the Centre for Ageing Research and Development to “ascertain how many deaths the Government’s cuts had caused since it came to power”.

Allegations
Mr Gilmore rounded on him, describing his allegations as “seriously over the top” and he insisted the issue of fuel costs was a matter the Government was aware of and was seeking to redress. It had to date retrofitted 250,000 homes, particularly homes with low incomes in a €50 million investment.

The Tipperary South TD raised the issue during leaders’ questions when he highlighted the six weeks cut in the fuel scheme in 2012, the drop of 600 units in free electricity and a further cut in the household benefits package again in 2013. The cuts were made despite more than 1,000 additional winter deaths.

Mr Healy said the Government had “deliberately and knowingly cut heating supports. It is known that cold-related conditions mean additional winter deaths.

“This policy is an act of social vandalism and is a matter of life and death,” he added.