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Families should not Have to Chose between Food and Heat – Tóibín

Speaking in the Dáil today Aontú Leader & Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín has criticised the government’s lack of action on fuel poverty as people right across the country are forced to choose between food and heating.

An Teachta Tóibín:

“This January has been the coldest January in over 10 years. This weekend the temperature is set to be sub-zero again and the cold will eat into peoples’ homes. Right around Ireland people are being forced to make a choice between food and heat, or between buying clothes or switching on the heating. Many people through no fault of their own have had their incomes collapse. They have had their ability to earn a salary deleted. Many self-employed people have had their businesses totalled due to the Government’s mismanagement of Covid. I know of an older woman who stays in bed longer every day so she does not have to put the heat on for the whole day. With everyone under lockdown at home, homes are being heated for much longer than normal. Significant extra costs for fuel are being incurred.”

“Our greenhouse gas emissions have dropped by 6% due to the pandemic. However, those from homes are up by around 9%, as many people are staying at home. That’s clear evidence that heating costs have radically increased for many. Even before the Covid crisis Ireland had an extremely high level of fuel poverty. Eurostat in 2019 showed that Ireland had the highest increase in gas prices, and the fifth highest increase in electricity prices in the EU. Its estimated that just under 8%, or 393,417 people were experiencing fuel poverty in this state. Now there is no doubt that that figure is far higher. It is ridiculous to think that someone must be in receipt of job-seekers allowance for in excess of 15 months before they qualify for fuel allowance. During these unprecedented and extraordinary times this rule needs to be scrapped. Everyone who has been made unemployed as a result of the pandemic should be entitled to a fuel allowance.”

“There are three major influences on Fuel poverty. First and foremost its income. Income has an immediate effect over the heating ability and that’s why the government must address it now. The second is the cost of energy. Here too the government are completely absent in the line of duty. Right across Europe people are reducing their energy costs with micro generation of energy. In the north of Ireland many roofs are festooned with solar panels. These panels are plugged into the grid and the families are paid for the energy generated. This can then be used to cover the cost of heating in winter. Ireland is unique in the fact that this state is the only state in Europe where there is no microgeneration of energy at all is plugged into the national grid. The third major influencer on fuel poverty is the energy efficiency of the home. Ireland has been glacial in rolling out deep retrofitting of housing stock. A government with real ambition on fuel and on the environment would be ramping up significantly the task of insolation retrofitting.”

By Aontú Press | 3 February, 2021

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