Taoiseach Micheál Martin has insisted there will be no “mini-Budget” to address the challenge of a spike in fuel and energy prices, in effect ruling out any reductions in Vat or increases in social welfare.
Mr Martin indicated that the Government package to alleviate rising costs for families will be announced by the end of the week and would focus on the possible reductions of charges for utilities or other services.
He confirmed that changes in the social welfare code (including the fuel allowance) may also be on the cards but it would not involve increases in social welfare, as that would make it a budgetary matter.
“Some may be once-off, some may be more sustainable in terms of reducing charges for people,” he said.
The Taoiseach, in an interview with This Week on RTÉ Radio 1, also said the Government is now taking the view that the increase in inflation will be a medium-term phenomenon, rather than short term, a position officially adopted until now.
“We want to take action on top of what was done in the Budget, which saw €1 billion allocated to social welfare measures and tax.
“There is (now) the (€100) electricity rebate. We do want to look after those who are hardest hit by the increase in home heating and (increases) in the basic necessities of life, those people on low income.
“We want to target measures to help people who are suffering as a result of this increase in prices.”
He said there had to be “a balance between targeting and also speed, because we understand that people are suffering from the impact of inflation right now”.
However he would not go into specifics as to what would be proposed or two it would be worth to householders with low income facing increasing costs. Asked would it amount to €200 or €300, he declined to give specifics.
He said there will be further discussions this week involving Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath and Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys. The three party leaders will also meet on Monday night ahead of a Cabinet sub-committee meeting on economic recovery on Thursday.
He did indicate that while there will be no change in fiscal policy, the Government would look at specific charges to alleviate rising costs.
“We will be looking at a range of charges that impact on people, particularly health charges, transport charges to see what we can do quickly.”
He also said he would be interested in a mechanism that would link the fuel allowance to the cost of fuel, as suggested by economist and DCU professor Edwin Morgenrath, who spoke earlier on the same programme.
In relation to carbon taxes, Mr Martin said the Government would not delay the next increase which is due in May. “We have to avoid short-termism in terms of climate change,” he said.
In relation to the failures uncovered in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (Camhs) in Co Kerry, Mr Martin said there was a “complete collapse” in clinical governance and in administrative governance.
He said it was “shocking and unacceptable” and he wanted there to be accountability on the matter.
Mr Martin said he would prefer a mediation process with the families of the 46 children affected to avoid an adversarial approach or litigation. He qualified the comment by saying that litigation was always open.
“Huge lessons have to be learned from this. What happened was unacceptable. The first lesson in medicine is ‘Do no harm’. And this report is clear that harm was done.”
On public health measures to deal with the ongoing Covid-19 station, the Taoiseach said he would still prefer people to wear masks in retail and on public transport. He, however, said the Government might be in a position to do something in relation to children wearing masks in schools, before the summer break.
Asked if an injustice had been done to former minister for agriculture Dara Calleary when he resigned immediately after the so-called Golfgate dinner, the Taoiseach again said the event did not revolve merely along a legal issue but also the need for a “one rule for everybody” among all members of the public when new guidelines are introduced.
He said it was a high price to pay for Mr Calleary. Asked if he intended for Mr Calleary to return to Cabinet if he himself stayed on as Tánaiste at the end of this year, Mr Martin said he was not going to speculate but for a person of the Mayo TD’s camber there was always a road back.