The State is preparing a massive programme of interventions as it grapples with the risks emerging from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Cabinet was told on Tuesday.
Excise duty is set to be cut on Wednesday in an effort to offset rampant inflation, with officials in the Department of Finance working into the night.
A wide-ranging confidential briefing for Ministers, which drew on information from every Government department, outlined the array of risks facing the country.
Threats to food production and consumer prices are severe, it warned.
Ministers were told that if there were shortages or rationing of key materials, there would be significant and immediate implications for domestic food supply and farm incomes. Economic growth could be depressed, threatening jobs and the exchequer.
A potential influx of refugees on an “unprecedented scale” would heap pressure on health, education and social services. Ministers were warned of impacts on food prices, high-value business sectors and disruption to energy markets and consumer prices.
Ministers were warned significant increases in electricity prices are on the cards for domestic and business consumers.
Businesses, meanwhile, are threatened by a host of issues, including the uplift in energy prices but also uncertainty and volatility in financial and currency markets. If there are shortfalls in supplies of raw materials, or if assets are seized by Russia or cyberattacks follow, there is a risk of communications networks or online services faltering. Supply chains – by sea and also overland rail connections to China – could be also be disrupted.
Some sectors would be particularly vulnerable to energy price hikes – especially industries such as biopharma, microelectronics and medical devices – while the risk to data centres was flagged as an issue that could have significant international effects.
Among the risks identified is that of a cyberattack, with the National Cyber Security Centre briefing IT staff in the public sector and working in critical infrastructure such as water, transport, gas and healthcare.
European Union leaders are likely to discuss the future of EU defence when they meet near Paris on Thursday.
On Tuesday Taoiseach Micheál Martin said Ireland would have to have a discussion about its policy of neutrality, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had “exposed” the EU to a threat. Mr Martin said the issue could be referred to a citizens’ assembly for discussion.
During the pandemic, the EU took the unprecedented step of issuing joint debt, and now the invasion of Ukraine has prompted calls to do the same for defence. Irish officials preparing for the summit were cautious about the suggestion. Joining an EU defence would likely require a referendum in this country.