A Sinn Féin TD has told the Dáil it is a “great shame” that Irish people are cutting back on buying food due to rising prices.

Deputy Claire Kerrane tabled a motion in the Dáil last night (Tuesday, May 31) calling on the government to issue targeted financial support for those who are struggling.

The Roscommon-Galway TD suggested a cost-of-living cash payment of €200 for every adult with an income less than €30,000 and €100 for every adult with an income between €30,000 and €60,000.

“We are one of the richest countries on the planet, yet families, workers and others are cutting back on eating,” she said.

“We have to sit back for a second and think about the implications of that. Households, families and workers who are paying their taxes are getting up in the morning and choosing to go without.

“They have no choice but to cut down daily and weekly on eating. That we have reached such a point in this day and age is a great shame,” Kerrane added.

The TD pointed to research from Permanent TSB which found that 62% of people feel they will have to cut back on food spending over the coming year.

The party’s spokesperson for social protection and rural development also noted data from Kantar showing grocery inflation is at its highest level in almost nine years.

Prices in supermarkets have risen by 5.5% in the past 12 months, the largest increase since August 2013. Coinciding with this is a fall in take-home grocery sales of 6.5% in the past 12 weeks.

The TD acknowledged that the government cannot protect everybody from every price increase, but said that it can and should do more.

The Sinn Féin motion also proposed a reduction in childcare fees, along with increasing the minimum wage and social welfare rates.

Food prices

In response, Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Sean Fleming said that the government would not oppose the motion.

“We are concerned with protecting our people from the severe financial and economic consequences of the recent worldwide spike in inflationary pressure.

“We are all aware that people are finding it harder to make ends meet. All of us in this house, regardless of party affiliation, want to respond as comprehensively as we can,” the minister said.

The Fianna Fáil representative outlined that the government has already brought in measures worth €2.4 billion this year, including a €500 million package to ease the impact of rising costs on households.

“These measures included energy credits, excise and VAT reductions on fuel and energy, the extension of the low VAT rate for tourism and hospitality services, a reduction in the caps on school transport fees for multiple children, maintaining the enhancement of the diesel rebate scheme and reducing public transport fees by 20%,” he said.

The minister noted that the community welfare service already provides discretionary payments on a daily basis to help people with additional costs which they cannot reasonably be expected to meet.

“Future actions should complement these measures and build on the services already in place, rather than set up parallel or duplicate streams of work.

“That is not to say that we believe no further measures are necessary. The government has not been found wanting and will continue to monitor the situation,” Minister Fleming said.