Ireland could be dealing with cost of living crisis for years, says Varadkar

Tánaiste was responding in the Dáil to Sinn Féin’s renewed calls for a summer budget

The country could be grappling with the cost-of-living crisis for years, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said.

Mr Varadkar said the global inflation crisis would not end “because of any budget, whether it’s an emergency budget before the autumn or whether it’s one in the autumn”.

He was speaking after The Irish Times reported on Thursday that the forthcoming budget could be brought forward by up to a month by the Government, as it faces significant pressure from the Opposition about inflation costs.

Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan said on Thursday morning he “would not object” to the Budget being brought forward to September from October.

In the Dáil, the Tánaiste was was questioned by Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty who said many parents were viewing their children’s return to school with “a sense of dread”.

During Leaders’ Questions on Thursday, Mr Doherty spoke of a mother based in Cork who faces back to school costs of €1,700 and is “terrified as to how she can make ends meet”.

“A child’s education should be a cherished right but for so many the price of education is a cause of concern, a cause of anxiety and that is simply wrong,” he said.

The Donegal TD said this week Barnardos had described families buying their children pyjamas to wear in the daytime “because it was the cheapest option”.

“It was the only option that they could afford,” he said. “For a Republic that was to be established on the basis of cherishing all of the children of the nation equally, this is the grim reality of Ireland today.”

Mr Doherty said on Wednesday night the Government had voted against a Sinn Féin motion calling for an emergency budget and the message to struggling workers and families over the summer months was “they are on their own during this time”.

In response, Mr Varadkar said the cost of living crisis was happening “right here, right now” and would continue “all the way through to the budget and will continue after the budget”.

“That’s the truth of it, we’re facing a global inflation crisis and it won’t end because of any budget, whether it’s an emergency budget before the autumn or whether it’s one in autumn,” he said.

“This is something we’re going to be grappling with for months, if not years ahead, and is caused by a number of factors which you’re very aware of and very much internationally driven.”

The Tánaiste also said the cost of living crisis was rising “very fast” in Ireland as well as around the world and Governments were “doing their best to deal with that”.

“There’s only so much that any Government can do,” he added. “Obviously people have seen big increases in the cost of petrol and diesel, in utility bills, increases in grocery bills and other bills as well.

“I think everyone is feeling the squeeze, but of course, some people particularly those on the lowest incomes, those with large families and those in rural areas are feeling the pinch of that all the more tighter, and sometimes are having to make very difficult decisions on what to spend money on.”

He said the Government had “acted already” and had done “just as much, if not more” compared to other countries.

Mr Varadkar said €1.4 billion worth of measures had already been introduced, “effectively a mini-budget or emergency budget”.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times