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08th Feb 2022

Taoiseach says Seán Fleming’s comments are “not the view of Ministers”

Hugh Carr

sean fleming taoiseach

The Taoiseach was immediately challenged on his contention.

Micheál Martin found himself on the back foot when he said that Sean Fleming’s sentiments on the cost of living were “not the views of Ministers” when, as it would appear, several had apparently shared similar views in recent months.

The Taoiseach spoke about Minister Seán Fleming’s controversial comments during a press conference on Tuesday (8 February).

“That’s not the view of Ministers. It’s not a privately held view, either,” Martin said.

“The Minister (Fleming) has apologised for the statement [he] made, but I think the key point is that we all realise, I mean it’s no secret that inflation is very high.

“I outlined in the Dáil today that primarily it’s the oil and gas exponential rise… I think 60 dollars a barrel to 90 in a single year, gas has quadrupled, nothing to do with carbon tax, let’s be honest about it, it’s got to do with the international situation.”

Martin added that the “bounce-back” of society reopening following the easing of Covid restrictions has had an impact on inflation prices.

Ciara Phelan of The Irish Mirror took note of the statement that Fleming’s comments were not the view of Ministers, and read out quotes from Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, who was also present, that suggested that people should shop around when looking for the means to save money on electricity prices.

“It’s Government policy to shop around,” argued Senator Lynn Boylan on Twitter, citing several instances of Government officials urging the public to seek better deals.

Minister Ryan cited a credit for €113 that the Government will be taking off electricity bills as a means for assisting with the rising costs of living.

“Yes, shopping between different suppliers is another way in which people can look to see can they bring their bills down,” Ryan said.

“I think there’s a whole variety of different measures that we all need to look at”.

Fleming came under fire on Monday for suggesting that Irish people switch all their suppliers and shops in order to reduce costs instead of “complaining” over a Governmental response.

“If people make an effort they can save a lot of money,” he said on RTÉ Radio 1’s Drivetime programme on Monday.

“People will tell you they’ve changed insurance companies, they’ve changed the supermarket they go to, they’ve changed their electricity supplier.

“Rather than just complaining and ‘What’s the Government going to do for me?’, you can actually have a serious impact on your own finance – but it involves people having to do some work themselves.”

Pressed on his methodology, Fleming insisted he was not suggesting people should “stop complaining” about the Government, rather that his alternative approach represents a better option.

Asked if his attitude is out of touch, he said:

“Don’t do as I say – do as I do. I do the weekly shopping in my house for a long period of time and I know the prices in the supermarket and I know the supermarkets that offer different things at better prices.

“I’ve shopped around for my insurance… I’ve shopped around in relation to my health insurance… It does take time and effort and if people put in time and effort, they can actually get reductions.”

Fleming has since issued an apology for his remarks.

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