The Minister for Finance has clashed with the Rural Independent Group in the Dáil on the costings of their proposed mini-budget.
Deputy Michael Collins, who is part of the group, yesterday (Wednesday, February 23) sought support in demanding the government hold an “urgent mini-budget to mitigate and address the spiraling cost-of-living crisis”.
“The skimpy package of measures recently announced by the government is grossly insufficient given the depth and impact of the crisis,” the TD claimed.
Among the Rural Independent Group demands were a €75 million package for farmers, reversing a planned increase in carbon tax and cutting excise duty on motor fuel by at least 50%, until the energy crisis abates.
Michael Healy-Rae told the Dáil that crippling costs for feed, fertiliser and fuel have the potential to “wipe out many viable farms”.
“If a robber had a choice between robbing a ball of money from a bank or robbing a pallet of fertiliser, the robber would be better off robbing the pallet of fertiliser because it is worth more,” Healy-Rae stated.
Carol Nolan noted that the carbon tax is affecting every sector, including farmers: “Agri-contractors cannot survive, given the level of tax being imposed on them. This, of course, is being passed on to farmers.”
Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae suggested that the government consider a subsidy of €100/t to help offset the cost of fertiliser for farmers, which he said would “keep the cost of food down for housewives”.
“The government is in a bubble and it needs to get out of it. It seems when that they come up to Dublin they think on a completely different wavelength,” deputy Richard O’Donoghue claimed.
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue told the debate that a series of measures had been brought forward to support the Irish pig sector, including a €7 million support scheme.
The minister said that he is “acutely aware of the challenges that many farmers will face this year” adding that the government is “working hard to offset these increases”.
McConalogue said a decision on anti-dumping levies on fertiliser imports from outside the European Union is “expected shortly”.
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said that the mini-budget proposals from the Rural Independent Group were “at best disrespectful to the challenges and needs of so many”.
“These measures are being brought forward with no recognition of the cost or the challenge involved in funding them. There are over €3 billion worth of proposals here, with no sense or recognition as to how they could be paid for or funded.
“The consequence of all of this would be to heap further difficulty on other people by way of higher debt,” the minister stated.
The minister said that it was wrong to claim that the carbon tax is the key contributing factor to Ireland’s costs of living increases and noted that the farming sector qualifies for “double income tax relief in regard to carbon taxing”.