Sinn Féin to bring forward legislation related to winter utility disconnection bans 

A “ban on winter utility disconnections” is now needed according to TD Darren O’Rourke, who has called on Minister Eamon Ryan to “go further” than this year’s moratorium on disconnections and introduce it annually.

The Sinn Féin spokesperson on climate action, communications networks and transport has welcomed the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) moratorium on disconnections until December 1.

However, the Meath East TD has called on the minister to introduce an annual moratorium on disconnections over the winter period, as the financial pressures being felt by families “will not finish on December 1 when this moratorium will cease”.

Deputy O’Rourke said: “This is very welcome news from the CRU, but we would go further and introduce protections from disconnections for all householders during the winter months, as is the case in many other countries.

“We [Sinn Féin] believe there should be a ban on electricity and gas disconnections during the winter months, with this ban mirroring the period of the Fuel Allowance scheme.

The state recognises, through the Fuel Allowance scheme, that many people struggle to meet the high cost of heating their homes over the winter months, but we believe this extra protection of banning disconnections should also be introduced.

“Consumers are facing significantly higher energy bills this winter as a result of the price hikes from providers, the PSO [Public Service Obligation] levy increase and the 30% hike in the carbon tax.”

‘We will be bringing forward our own legislation in this area’

The deputy says this all comes when there are “hundreds of thousands of people unemployed due to the pandemic”.

“We can’t have a situation where those facing financial difficulty have their gas or electricity cut off in the middle of winter for failure to meet their bills on time.

“Even having the threat of disconnections hanging over families is incredibly stressful.

We [Sinn Féin] believe Minister Eamon Ryan already has the power to direct the CRU to implement a ban on winter disconnections, however, we will be bringing forward our own legislation in this area in the coming days to give the minister this explicit power.

“This move by the CRU today is welcome, but we would legislate to ban all disconnections over the winter period in line with the example set in other countries.”