Sinn Féin proposes new spending to address cost of living

Party survey shows most respondents experienced negative impacts on mental health

Sinn Féin has proposed new spending of over €500 million to address the cost of living following an online survey which showed a large majority have experienced negative mental health impacts due to rising costs.

The party received 14,500 responses to its online survey about the impact of increases in the cost of living.

The results showed that 77 per cent of respondents said they experienced negative impacts on their mental health due to the rising costs of living.

Over nine out of 10 respondents said they had experienced cost rises in heating bills, while 80 per cent said they experienced increases in petrol and diesel costs. A third had seen their rent increase while almost 20 per cent said their childcare costs had risen.


One interesting finding was that 80 per cent said they had experienced increases in food and grocery costs. Ms Kerrane noted that this perception may be felt among many people although data from the Central Statistic Office shows there has not been a substantive increase in food and grocery prices.

On the back of the survey, the party has called for a three-month suspension of VAT on energy bills, scrapping increases in the carbon tax, freezing rents and providing tenants with a month’s free rent, reducing third level fees by €500, as well as cutting childcare costs.

The party’s social affairs spokeswoman Claire Kerrane said the response to the survey, which was distributed on the party’s social media channels, was the largest by far the party had received. Similar surveys conducted in the past had received fewer than 1,000 responses.

Over 95 per cent of respondents were either concerned, or very concerned, about the rising cost of living, while 98.5 per cent were of the opinion the Government was “not doing enough to address the rising cost of living”.

Slightly over half of the respondents were working full time with a further 17 per cent working part-time; 74 per cent of respondents were in the 25 to 54 age group.

The party did not ask respondents to state if they supported Sinn Féin or other parties. While it would be expected that a significant proportion of respondents would support the party, Ms Kerrane said the size of the sample, and the fact that over 6,000 people had added their own comments, showed that the sample represented a good spread and also showed the breadth and depth of concern over this issue.

Party finance spokesman Pearse Doherty outlined a number of policy responses that would slow price rises. While acknowledging that increases in energy costs were partly attributable to global factors, he said that a three month zero VAT rate for energy costs was necessary, at a cost of €40 million per month. He also repeated the party’s policy of calling for a scrapping of increases in fuel allowance.

He also said that eligibility for fuel allowance should be expanded to include an additional 30,000 households and a utility debt fund should be set up to allow discretionary help to households who find themselves in trouble.

The biggest single cost would come from freezing rents and offering tenants one month of rent as a once-off payment. The cost to the Exchequer would be €273 million. Its proposals for cutting childcare would come to €168 million.

Mr Doherty said the party had set out detailed proposals on funding in its alternative budget submission it published in October.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times