Call for ban on electricity disconnections this winter due to ‘price hikes and job losses’

The government has been called on to ban electricity and gas disconnections this winter, as the cabinet finalises more restrictions “which will likely lead to thousands more job losses”.

Sinn Féin spokesperson on climate action, communications networks and transport, Darren O’Rourke, said that the government must ensure extra protections for workers and families form part of any escalation of restrictions announced today (Monday, October 19).

“It’s vital this includes a ban on disconnections for gas and electricity customers, for those who run into difficulties meeting their bills at this incredibly difficult time,” deputy O’Rourke continued.

People are now facing higher energy costs due to the recent increase in the carbon tax and electricity PSO [Public Service Obligation levy], in addition to price hikes announced by providers.

“It is crucial families have reassurance that if they run into difficulty meeting energy bills this winter, their gas and electricity will not be disconnected.

“A moratorium on disconnections was put in place earlier this year by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities and ran from mid-March until the end of June – facing into the colder winter months now, this protection is even more important now.”

The deputy added that Minister Eamon Ryan “must take the lead on this today” and ensure a new moratorium on disconnections forms part of “any escalation of Covid-19 restrictions announced”.

Dáil debate this week on making forestry developments over 5ha subject to planning permission

Meanwhile, a party colleague of deputy O’Rourke will bring a bill to second stage in the Dáil on Thursday evening (October 22) which would make forestry developments over 5ha subject to planning permission.

TD for Sligo-Leitrim Martin Kenny first introduced the bill in 2018 and has said that forestry plantations have a “significant impact on people living near them, so should be subject to planning permission like any other development”.

He continued:

“Planning permission for forestry is something that is needed throughout the state. Permission is currently only required in order to plant more than 50ha, which is a very large area.

As a result, very few people have had to apply for planning permission in respect of forestry developments over the years. What is particularly concerning is the type and scale of forestry that is evident in many parts of the country and the visual, environmental and societal impact it has.

“The visual impact is certainly something I see in my part of the world, where we have large areas of forestry – mainly Sitka spruce and pine forests – which grow and block out many people’s access to light.

“Many people have built or bought houses with a beautiful view of a lake or mountains and within a couple of years forests have grown in front of them and they have no right to object and no right to say anything to anyone about it.”