A mass refusal to pay soaring energy bills would ‘create havoc’ and saddle people with huge debts, the Taoiseach has warned.
Micheál Martin was speaking after People Before Profit said people would be “more than justified” in refusing to pay their spiralling bills.
The Government plans to introduce a special cost-of-living package worth between €1bn and €2bn in the budget later this month; however, opposition parties have called for greater supports.
Speaking to Ciara Kelly, the Taoiseach said the country was experiencing an energy crisis like nothing we have ever witnessed before – and admitted Government will not be able to fully protect people from price increases.
He said people who refused to pay their bills would be left with large debts to pay off in the future – and criticised People Before Profit for raising the prospect.
“I think that would be chaotic,” he said. “It would be bad advice because we need to keep a sustainable approach.
“I mean, the danger with all of that of course, in the fullness of time … those political activists and People Before Profit fundamentally want to create havoc. They are activists who don’t believe in the current system at all and want to overturn it, I mean that is their declared political agenda.
“So, they use events like this, they exploit events like this to try and create that chaos. What would happen is people would be left with huge bills.”
Energy price protests have already been held in a number of European cities – with images online showing people in Naples burning their energy bills in front of the city’s Town Hall.
Mr Martin said there is “no great evidence” of people planning similar protests in Ireland.
“The better ways of dealing with this are through Government interventions that help people and through sensible behaviours from the companies themselves,” he said. “But also, through taxing any excess revenue that energy companies are making through this crisis.
“That means, at European level, an intervention in the market that would essentially tax windfall profits based on this crisis and then bring that money back to give back to consumers.”
He said people who were genuinely struggling to pay their energy bills would not find themselves cut off.
Speaking at the People Before Profit think-in in Dublin last week, Richard Boyd Barrett said people would be “more than justified in not paying what are extortionate or profiteering prices.”
He admitted that huge numbers of the people most affected by the energy crisis would not have that option because they use pre-pay meters.
Cork TD Mick Barry urged people to attend a Cost of Living Coalition protest on September 24th.
In a wide-ranging interview, the Taoiseach also said Michael McGrath would take over from Paschal Donohoe as Finance Minister as planned and rejected suggestions from Leo Varadkar that the introduction of free school transport was a mistake.
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