Taoiseach: No ‘blank cheque’ to fund keeping the heat on during cold snap
Jim Daly’s call to elderly to leave heating on for 24 hours ‘not advice of Government’
Minister of State Jim Daly’s advice to the elderly to keep their heating on 24/7 during the cold weather is ‘not the advice of Government’, the Taoiseach has said. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times.
Minister of State Jim Daly’s advice to the elderly to keep their heating on 24/7 during the cold weather is “not the advice of Government”, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has told the Dáil.
He was speaking as Opposition leaders called for a double payment of the weekly fuel allowance to be offered to social welfare recipients to deal with the forecast freezing weather conditions.
Mr Varadkar said the Government could not offer a “blank cheque” to pick up the full fuel bill.
“Bear in mind the fuel allowance is €22.50 a week. There is no way I can guarantee that doubling the fuel allowance will pay for the fuel bill.”
Mr Daly was quoted in the Irish Daily Mail on Tuesday as advising older people to ‘keep the heat going for 24 hours’ during the cold spell. He later told RTÉ that he wanted to ensure that no older person goes without an extra bag of coal or an extra bale of briquettes “because of cost”.
Mr Varadkar said “Mr Daly’s advice is not the advice of Government”. He said the Government had decided in the budget to extend the fuel allowance a week into April.
However, the Taoiseach later told the House that the Government might consider bringing forward that extra week’s payment after Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty said 1,500 to 2,000 people die from weather-related effects annually and that was without the forthcoming freezing weather.
Mr Doherty said the second week’s fuel allowance would cost €6 million and this was “no blank cheque”.
The Taoiseach faced a barrage of calls for the fuel allowance to be doubled and People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith called for local authorities to ensure that heating was kept on in flats for the elderly where they did not control the temperature themselves.
She said that in the Claddagh apartments in Ballyfermot elderly residents had no control over the heating and the council turned off their heating last night.
She said people would leave their ovens on and the doors open overnight to keep heat in their homes.
The Dublin South-Central TD called on the Taoiseach to ensure that local authorities and voluntary housing associations running such apartments keep the heating on during the forthcoming storm.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said Mr Daly was right that people should not have to “shiver in front of a single bar” heater and the Taoiseach should come back in with a substantive response.
Labour leader Brendan Howlin said that no elderly person was going to keep the heating on unless they knew they could pay for it.
“There’s no point telling people to run their heating for 24 hours and not to worry about how to pay it,” he said.
The Taoiseach had made a statement on the advancing storm asking that people “look after their neighbours, especially those who are isolated or living alone”.
He said “I want to assure the Irish people that while we are hoping for the best we are of course preparing for the worst and we will be ready for whatever the weather brings”.