The Government will ensure that people on pay-as-you-go energy meters will not be disconnected this winter, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.
Mr Martin said in the face of “an energy crisis of this kind, we cannot have disconnections”.
“We are very clear about that, we don’t want people disconnected, particularly vulnerable people and people who will find difficulty in terms of meeting their bills,” he told RTÉ Radio 1′s This Week programme on Sunday.
Mr Martin said the Government would be working with the energy providers and the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) and “also through the social welfare system we will underpin and help people in terms of meeting their bills”.
A moratorium on electricity and gas disconnections is in place for the winter, applying to most consumers from the beginning of December until the end of February and from October to the end of March for vulnerable customers.
The Taoiseach also said he hoped there will be no energy blackouts this coming winter but that “we can never be certain”.
Mr Martin said the country should be “okay this winter, but one can ever guarantee” adding that next winter would be “challenging”.
He said the Government believed the energy crisis would go “right through 2023″ and they didn’t see any “immediate sign” of the war ending in Ukraine.
“The direction is one way — higher oil prices and higher gas prices for the time being but we have to double down on renewables and get renewables faster, get wind energy and solar energy faster,” he said.
“That’s the only way forward. I think the next two to three years will be difficult in and around energy security and energy supply and energy pricing.”
Separately, Mr Martin did not definitively rule out going into government with Sinn Féin in the future and said he would be “right there” as leader of Fianna Fáil until the next general election.
When asked whether the door was open to doing business with Sinn Féin in the future, he said “our door is open to parties with policies that are similar to ours”.
“My position in relation to the next election will be policy first and in relation to Sinn Féin, as I’ve seen them, in the last two and a half years, don’t align with ours at all, particularly on the enterprise front.
“They’re anti enterprise as far as I can see, deep down, they’re anti Europe as well,” he said.
Mr Martin added that commentators and others were “very excited about Sinn Féin and the polls” but that “nothing is guaranteed”.
He said Sinn Féin didn’t have “credible policies at the moment” and that he wasn’t sure the markets would have “taken too kindly to the Sinn Féin budget if it had actually been implemented”.
“I’ve learned from the last two elections, both 2016 and 2020, the dynamic of an election campaign itself is much different and it can throw all polling to one side and events happen,” he added.
“We’ve got two and a half years to go to the next general election so let’s keep our powder dry.”
Mr Martin also said the Government did not want the concrete levy to be an “imposition” on first-time buyers and the application of the levy will be “worked out”.
He said the Government would examine the “mechanics” of the levy and respond to “legitimate points of view that are put forward”. “It’s not our objective in the first instance to put impositions on first time buyers,” he said.