No further cost-of-living measures until next budget, Taoiseach warns

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said he will be giving his €200 energy credit to charity as he warned that there will be no further measures to tackle the cost of living until the next budget.

Speaking on Friday in Brest, France, at the One Ocean summit, he also said the “jury is out” in relation to how long inflation will remain at current high levels.

“The next intervention [on cost-of-living issues] would be the next budget. It was a clear decision. When you take everything in its totality, including that the Budget [2022] itself had a €1 billion of cost-of-living measures between taxation and spending measures, that’s been added to by a further half a billion in yesterday’s measures.

“Packages of this sort will never fully obviously meet the inflationary cycle in terms of the scale of it, but it will help and it will help to alleviate pressures that are on many families, particularly hard-pressed families.

“We also have to be mindful of the fact that obviously that it’s an international phenomenon, a global phenomenon. The jury is out in terms of how long inflation will stay at this rate.”

In relation to the cost-of-living measures announced by the Government on Thursday, he added: “There had to be a balance achieved between once-off measures. We are conscious of the budgetary framework which has not gone away. Let’s be very clear about that. We have been through two years of extraordinary Government intervention in the economy.

“We’ve underpinned jobs, we’ve underpinned employment. The fiscal framework is one we have to keep an eye on. Some of the measures were once-off, and they were also measures that we could do relatively more quickly than ones that would necessitate legislation and so forth.”

College fees

Mr Martin was asked about the view in Fine Gael that college fees should be reduced.

“Any issues around education fall to be considered in terms of next year’s estimates campaign and in terms of the budget. That is the situation right now.

“The core funding is a big issue in terms of our third-level system and research funding. So all of that goes into the mix for the next estimates process,” he said.

His comments come after the Government on Thursday announced a package of measures to address increases in the cost of living, including doubling a planned energy rebate to €200, cutting public transport fares by 20 per cent and promising a once-off payment of €125 to recipients of the fuel allowance.

The package went further than expected, and also included changes to the drug payment scheme (with the maximum monthly payment reduced from €100 to €80), the working family payment and school transport fees, but was criticised as insufficient by Opposition parties and some groups working with the poorest households in the country.

Wage increases

Separately, Mr Martin was asked about pressure from unions to ensure there should be wage increases for both the private and public sector to cope with inflationary pressures.

“The Ictu and the trade union movement more generally engages with employers in terms of negotiations in the private sector and that will continue. Generally as a society, we have to be careful that we don’t try and chase inflation and then end up sort of causing more harm than good. There will be further soundings between ourselves and the unions and the employers on this.”

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