Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said an emergency meeting of European Union ministers will be held within 10 days to try to address what he described as the “alarming” and “exponential” rise of energy prices across Europe.
The Taoiseach said he spoke with the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday morning to discuss the issue. She told him new proposals to deal with the crisis would be tabled at an emergency meeting of EU ministers on September 9th.
Mr Martin also confirmed that senior Government Ministers discussed a possible “windfall tax” for energy suppliers during a special ministerial meeting on energy prices on Monday evening. He said the issue was being examined and being worked on at present by various Ministers.
In a media interview on Tuesday in Clones, Co Monaghan, where he attended an Ulster Canal restoration project event, Mr Martin focused on the energy crisis throughout Europe saying the matter was of real concern.
“We are in extraordinary times. I spoke this morning with [Ms Von der Leyen] in respect of the huge exponential rise in energy prices. That is a matter of real concern across Europe now, in terms of the fact that we’re looking at price increases over the coming while the likes of which no one anticipated. If you look at future pricing in terms of the wholesale market it’s quite alarming,” he said.
“Therefore, the European Union Commission will be bringing forward proposals at an emergency meeting on September 9th.”
He continued: “There will be an emergency measure that will be proposed by the commission to deal with the immediate situation, and then also a more sustained reform of the energy market over the next 12 months.”
Mr Martin said a special meeting of senior Cabinet Ministers had also focused on energy prices in Ireland. He said four separate strands had been discussed.
Firstly, the substantial increase in energy prices; secondly, the question of energy security, which, he said, the Department of Energy and Communications had been reviewing for some time.
“Thirdly, we did examine and look at the issue of a windfall tax. That matter will be examined and various Ministers are working on that issue. Fourthly, we discussed the need for a campaign led by Government to work on energy-reduction issues because all of us collectively must now seek to be more energy efficient because the prices are so high, to do everything we can to reduce our consumption of energy.”
The Taoiseach also welcomed the news that agreement has been reached between the public-service unions and the Government over pay.
He said the September 27th budget and its cost-of-living package would further benefit families struggling to make ends meet.
He said the agreement reached with the public-sector unions had been a fair one. “We’re going through a very difficult period, economically, because of the war in Ukraine. That is a fundamental factor in all of this and particularly on the energy prices, which is feeding into inflation and so therefore, we need [industrial relations] harmony [and] need to work through this crisis in a collective way.”
On the decision by Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman to abandon an independent review of the handling by the Commission into Mother and Baby Homes of the personal testimony of survivors, Mr Martin said the Government and Mr O’Gorman had done more than any previous government in resolving this matter, including enacting legislation giving the right to birth information, the capacity to exhume bodies from the Tuam mother and babies home, as well as an allocation of €800 million for redress.
“It is not open to a government to change the outcomes from a commission of investigation but the Minister will continue to work with survivors making sure that the entire of their personal testimonies can be on the public record,” he said.