People sheltering in libraries as they cannot afford fuel, says O’Dea

Varadkar hopes to increase fuel allowance in budget but ‘cannot guarantee it at this stage’

Willie O’Dea of Fianna Fáil: “Growing older increasingly seems to mean growing colder.”Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Willie O’Dea of Fianna Fáil: “Growing older increasingly seems to mean growing colder.”Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Appealing to Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar to increase the fuel allowance in next week’s budget, he said organisations representing the elderly had conducted surveys showing “people who do not light a fire until the afternoon and who go to bed early in the winter to save fuel”.

“Other people resort to taking public transport or taking shelter in public libraries and other public buildings because they simply cannot afford to heat their homes properly for a sufficient period of time to enable them to live comfortably in their homes.” The Limerick city TD said, “Growing older increasingly seems to mean growing colder.”

Mr Varadkar said the fuel allowance was increased 10 per cent last year from €20 to €22.50, and he hoped they could continue “in the same direction” next year “but I cannot guarantee that at this stage”.

The allowance is given for 26 weeks to 380,000 households at a cost of €224 million, along with an electricity or gas allowance at a cost of €228 million.

Mr O’Dea said recent research found that the island of Ireland “has the highest rate of excess winter mortality in Europe, with an estimated 2,800 excess deaths each winter”, and fuel poverty was a factor in this.