Ireland in ‘war time’ situation as Taoiseach warns of shock gas price increases in January

Sinn Féin leader calls for moratorium on energy disconnections to start now and detail of measures to prevent pay-as-you-go customers being cut off

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has called on the Government to start the ban on electricity and gas disconnections immediately and to extend it to the end of March as further energy hikes take effect this month.

She also called on Taoiseach Micheál Martin outline the measures that will be taken to ensure consumers on pay-as-you-go tariffs would not be cut off.

But Mr Martin said those on prepayment tariffs should not be cut off. He warned that it was a “wartime situation” and gave an indication of shock gas price increases from 263 pence a therm currently to a likely 450 pence in January.

Ms McDonald quoted the Taoiseach’s public comments on Sunday that “nobody would be disconnected from electricity supply this winter”.


People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy claimed the Taoiseach’s remarks were “spin”. He said “you need to act now to guarantee that nobody will be cut off if they cannot afford to pay.”

Mr Murphy claimed that some companies charged exit fees of up to €100 for consumers trying to leave the prepayment system. “They are effectively holding people hostage.”

The ban on disconnections is due to start on December 1st and continue until the end of February. Ms McDonald said “but that is not good enough. It leaves people waiting too long for protection and the timespan is too short”.

She clashed with the Taoiseach when she said that “the energy credits announced in your budget are already being gobbled up from this week”, with customers facing a price hike of 38 per cent for electricity and gas prices by a “massive” 45 per cent.

“Your refusal to cap electricity bills at pre-crisis levels as have people wide open to these further hikes. So in reality and despite your assurances at the weekend, households struggling to pay their bills remain in danger of disconnection. It’s a very real and present fear.”

She added that “these times are very reminiscent of a decade ago when the Troika was in town. And when people used to ration everything, including food.

“I remember families having cornflake days. That was that was dinner for them. And now what I am hearing from families is that they are rationing their electricity.”

The Taoiseach had promised no disconnections but action was needed and not just words, she added.

Mr Martin said that was why unprecedented measures were announced to support people and help them get through the winter including the €600 in energy credits for every household.

Mr Murphy said the Taoiseach’s comments that people would not be disconnected was “spin” because as things stand people on prepayment tariffs would be cut off when they run out of emergency credit of €20.

Mr Murphy said up to 340,000 people would be affected and were among the most vulnerable customers including 90,000 who previously had trouble paying their bills.

He claimed that one of the largest companies was PrePayPower owned by two of the richest men in Ireland increased profits last year by 27 per cent. Anyone trying to leave the prepay scheme face exit penalties of up to €100. “They are effectively holding people hostage.”

Mr Martin said the measures they had put in place “are unprecedented”. He added that “people shouldn’t be cut off by definition, given the scale of it.”

Mr Murphy hit back and said that the Taoiseach had gone from saying people will not be cut off to they should not be cut off.

“What you’re actually saying today is that people have been given so much that it “will be their own fault” if they are cut off.”

But the Taoiseach said Mr Murphy was “too dismissive of the extraordinary protections given in the budget”.

He added that social protection was also available and the regulator “has provided strong protections”.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times