Eamon Ryan says Sinn Féin approach to energy crisis is Tory Party-esque
"You're following a Tory Government approach. I don't agree with it."
With the new Budget just days away and Dáil Éireann firmly back in business, the hot takes are coming thick and fast from all corners of Government regarding a long-mooted difficult winter.
Ireland is in the midst of a mounting energy crisis, with seemingly endless provider price increases fast becoming the grim norm. As such, renewed pressure is being placed on Cabinet leaders to respond and offer protection to the public.
Challenged by Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty on Wednesday, Minister for Climate, Communications and the Environment Eamon Ryan has insisted that people will not go cold as the autumn and winter months take effect.
Doherty asked Ryan if he intends to scale energy bills back to summer 2021 levels, and if so, will they then be capped at this level throughout the winter until the end of February.
Responding, Minister Ryan noted that his department "absolutely acknowledge that these price rises are really hitting and hurting our people and businesses across the country and we have to do everything to protect them" as he once again singled out the ongoing war in Ukraine as the cause for the current crisis and thus a "direct attack on our people".
Ryan said his Government will continue to assess the situation in order to find the "best way" available. He then turned his attention to Sinn Féin's response, drawing a comparison with the UK Conservative Party. Sinn Féin recently announced its own motion, with the aim of cutting energy costs in the country.
The party's plan would see electricity bills capped to the prices they were in 2021, and to give cash handouts to low and middle-income families to assist with paying bills.
"I don't believe the Sinn Féin plan is the right one," Ryan declared on Wednesday.
"It is very similar to what the Tory Party are looking to do. In fact, Jacob Rees-Mogg, this morning, I believe set out pretty much the same policy for Northern Ireland. You're following a Tory Government approach. I don't agree with it.
"The first problem in principle is that it would actually benefit the better-off, who tend to use more energy, tend to have the bigger houses, tend to have the bigger bills – they would benefit most from the approach that you are suggesting," Ryan continued.
"Secondly, as in the Tory Party approach, it would benefit the energy industries – and that is something that we don't need to do this time. What we need to do is apply windfall charges and actually give that money back to our people, rather than providing a cap where they get a free pass in any amount after that."
Minister Ryan also stated that the economics attached to the energy crisis are "deeply uncertain" and that there are a number of other areas including social protection that require a stern focus.
"So, it is simple, your plan," Ryan offered in the direction of Doherty, "But I don't think it's the right one. And it's not easy and every country has slightly different circumstances – we have to adapt and look at what the right approach is. But I believe our approach is the right one."
Minister Ryan also argued that Sinn Féin are "against giving people an energy credit", a measure that he insists is beneficial approach for the general public.
Imagery via Leah Farrell / RollingNews.ie