Sinn Féin proposal for emergency budget emergency budget rejected by Government

Balance must be struck between providing immediate help and creating longer term problems, says Paschal Donohoe

The Government has said it will oppose a Sinn Féin motion calling for an emergency budget to help tackle the current cost of living crisis.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said the Government had to get the balance right between “intervening to help today, but at the same time not creating new problems and new risks tomorrow”. Mr Donohoe said these risks included potentially adding to the inflationary pressures, creating new risks and new finances in public finances. The Fine Gael TD said since the last Budget, the Government had brought in additional measures which were equivalent to an entire budget.

Minister of State at the Department of Finance Seán Fleming said the Government had shown they were “not afraid to act when needed” but added “we will not act in a reckless manner”.

Mr Fleming said fiscal policy that was poorly designed “can backfire” and that “we could end up making the inflation situation worse”.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty said the time for action “isn’t in four months’ time - it is now”.

The Donegal TD said workers and families “cannot afford to wait” and urgently needed help to “weather the storm”. He said the Government “still do not get it”.

Mr Doherty said social welfare recipients needed to see rates increase in line with inflation and that cost of living cash payments should be paid directly to low and middle income earners. He also called for a month’s rent to go back into renter’s pockets through a refundable tax credit as well as slashing the cost of childcare.

Many households would be “pushed over the edge” if the Government doesn’t intervene, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said.

Ms McDonald said the Government can’t “clock off in three weeks’ time” when the Dáil rises for summer recess, and leave families “fighting to stay afloat”.

“That would be wholly wrong,” Ms McDonald said during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil on Tuesday.

“We need an emergency budget, and the workers and families of Ireland need it now.”

A vote on the Sinn Féin emergency budget motion will take place on Wednesday evening.

Ms McDonald said the cost-of-living crisis was getting worse and many households couldn’t wait for the budget in October. The Dublin Central TD said workers and families were finding it increasingly difficult “just to afford the basics”.

“We’re now at a point where having a full-time job is not a guaranteed protection against the sharp edge of this crisis,” she added.

`Really struggling’

“Some households with two incomes are really struggling, so what hope, what chance do those on low pay have?

“We know there are international factors at play. We accept that, but we also know that this cost-of-living crisis is a catastrophe for our society.

“I have been contacted by parents who are worried that they’re raising their children now for emigration. I’ve been contacted by young people themselves who don’t want to leave but have their bags packed for Canada and Australia. They say they can’t afford a life at home and that is the terrible vista again, of forced emigration, looming for us.”

Labour leader Ivana Bacik said “swift measures” had to be introduced to address the “real concerns” families and households faced as the “back-to-school crunch” would be coming.

Inflationary cycle

“Even a small set of targeted measures introduced now before the summer recess would make a difference in the confidence of families and households that they will be able to face into the winter, a winter in which we all know the cost-of-living crisis is only going to deepen,” she said.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the Government was “deeply concerned” about the “enormous cost pressures” and impact of the current inflationary cycle on people, households and workers.

“I want to make it very clear that myself, the Government, are absolutely determined to deal comprehensively with this,” he said.

Mr Martin said at the European Council meeting last week, there were “very real concerns” about what the winter would bring, “particularly if gas is cut off fully by Russia from the rest of Europe”.

“That’s now a very real prospect, already in quite a number of states that has happened,” he said.

The Taoiseach added there had to be “a comprehensive response that gets us through the entirety of next winter in particular”. He said this would have to include pay, tax, expenditure and a specific cost-of-living package “that would have application in this calendar year”.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times