Subscriber Only

Hold off on filling your car, emergency excise duty cut is coming

Inside Politics: Extra measures needed to offset cost of living due to war in Ukraine

Hold off on filling up your car, there is an emergency excise duty cut on the way.

The war in Ukraine has seen fuel prices soar to more than €2 per litre and it has forced the Government here into bringing in fresh measures to respond to the rising cost of living.

It is something that just a few short weeks ago the Coalition said it would not do until the Budget.

But as Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said on Tuesday, the "world has changed" and the Government has to respond to the "inflationary impact of oil at $125 per barrel".

He warned that measures on excise “won’t cushion the full blow” of fuel increases and it is unlikely the Opposition will be satisfied with the response, but Ministers are expected to participate in a special Cabinet meeting to sign off on the plan.

It will have to be rushed through the Oireachtas before the break for St Patrick's Day next week.

The impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on consumers in Ireland is of course insignificant compared with the suffering of people under attack in a brutal war.

But it is having a knock-on effect on the global economy and Ireland will not be spared as Ministers were warned at Cabinet on Tuesday.

Jack Horgan-Jones and Pat Leahy outline a wide-ranging confidential briefing for Ministers, which drew on information from every Government department, on the array of risks facing the country.

Threats to food production and consumer prices are severe. Economic growth could be depressed, threatening jobs and the exchequer. A potential influx of refugees on an “unprecedented scale” would heap pressure on health, education and social services.

Ministers were warned significant increases in electricity prices are on the cards for domestic and business consumers.

Businesses are threatened by a host of issues, including the uplift in energy prices but also uncertainty and volatility in financial and currency markets.

If there are shortfalls in supplies of raw materials, or if assets are seized by Russia or cyberattacks follow, there is a risk of communications networks or online services faltering.

Supply chains – by sea and also overland rail connections to China – could also be disrupted.

It makes for grim reading and given the range of challenges facing the State, a cut in excise duty will not be the last intervention that has to be made by the Government as it responds to the crisis.

St Patrick’s Day visits

The coming week sees a return of a pre-pandemic annual ritual of Government with the first international trips by Ministers to promote Ireland for St Patrick’s Day since 2019.

They will visit 33 different places across the world including venues in the United States, the European Union, the UK, the Far East and Latin America.

In the coming days Taoiseach Micheál Martin will travel to London before heading to Washington for an Oval Office meeting with US president Joe Biden.

But Tánaiste Leo Varadkar will travel today, heading to Chile and Colombia.

So what’s on the itinerary in South America?

Mr Varadkar will open new embassies in Santiago and Bogatá.

He will attend the inauguration of Chile's new president, Gabrial Boric, on behalf of Ireland and the EU, and will also visit Irish businesses operating in the country.

In Colombia Mr Varadkar will meet president Iván Duque Márquez, and the Minister for Enterprise will also sign a memorandum of understanding between Ireland and Colombia on co-operation in the education sector aimed at giving Irish students new opportunities to study and live there.

The renewal of the St Patrick’s Day exodus after two years of pandemic is something of a return to normality in the political calendar.

Best Reads

Dan McLaughlin continues his reports on the war in Ukraine from Lviv as the US bans Russian oil imports but also dismisses a Polish plan to provide fighter jets.

Naomi O'Leary has an extraordinary story about how the United Nations' department of global communications instructed staff of the international organisation not to refer to the situation in Ukraine as a "war" or "invasion".

Miriam Lord gives her account of how the Taoiseach danced around plans to bring in an excise cut during Tuesday's Dáil proceedings as she predicts victory will be claimed by the Opposition as well as their next line of attack.

Playbook

Dáil proceedings kick off with Topical Issues at 9.12am.

The Labour Party have a motion on flexible working which will be debated from 10am.

Leaders’ Questions is at noon.

Government business in the afternoon includes a second-stage debate on the Finance (Covid-19 and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2022.

The weekly Dáil votes are expected to happen from 8.30pm onwards.

At 9.30am the Committee on Enterprise will consider the Brexit impact on trade with Government officials and representatives from InterTradeIreland.

At the same time the Committee on Health will hear from unions on the overcrowding crisis in hospitals.

The Committee on Transport will meet at 1.30pm to discuss the Travelling in a Woman’s Shoes report.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe will be before the Committee on Finance which is considering the Consumer Credit (Amendment) Bill 2018 at 1.30pm.

Also at 1.30pm Ministers Catherine Martin and Jack Chambers will be before the Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media to be quizzed on revised funding estimates.

At 5.30pm the Committee on Budgetary Oversight will conduct Pre-Stability Programme Update scrutiny with the Economic & Social Research Institute.

From 6pm the Committee on Children will continue its consideration of the Birth Information and Tracing Bill 2022 with Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman.

Full schedules can be found here for the Dáil, the Seanad and Committees.