Taoiseach says Government will use dividends to help with energy bills

Taoiseach Micheál Martin

THE Taoiseach said today (Friday, September 16) that the government would use its dividend from soaring profits at ESB to help people struggling with soaring energy bills.

Micheál Martin told reporters in Co Clare this afternoon: “The government is the shareholder on behalf of the Irish people so we have the capacity through the dividend that we receive that we can recover that, and obviously given the scale of the profits on the back of the energy crisis, I think government can look forward to a much higher dividend than would have been the case prior to the (energy) crisis.”

The government will use this dividend “to underpin its efforts to reduce pressures on households, and also protect jobs”, said the Taoiseach.

“That’s what we are going to do in the cost-of-living package next week and in the Budget – protect households as best we can with the funding we have, and also protect jobs, and we will do that with the ESB profits, but also through the windfall measures that will be taken at a European level but that will apply to Ireland, and we’ll also get some revenues back.”

“We have a surplus going into the end of the year that will provide for us certainly in the medium-term, to enable us to help people who need help because of rising electricity bills, rising energy costs, and general inflation that has been part of the economy because of the war on Ukraine and the huge problems on the European continent in terms of gas supplies which were brought about by the war.”

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Consumers, small to medium businesses and larger enterprises will all benefit from the “mechanisms and measures” the government is planning to reveal in Budget 2023 which Deputy Martin said “help people but that, doesn’t exacerbate inflation, but also targets it at families in need”.

“We have energy credits to cover the general population. Where the gov is heading is through measures and mechanisms, through energy credits, tax, through the public service pay agreement, through cutting costs in terms of public services, and then through social welfare, to reduce costs overall and to give people supports to weather the extraordinary bills that they currently have.”

He added that the government is also “looking at measures to ease pressures on the enterprise sector“ to protect jobs.

Asked by a journalist if he felt “embarrassed” to be Taoiseach when protest marches were being planned this weekend over the cost of living crisis, Deputy Martin said it was every Irish citizen’s “fundamental right” to protest, however he said the energy crisis was “brought about by a war on Ukraine – not by the Irish government or any domestic policy”.

“It was fundamentality brought about by a terrible war on Ukraine and Putin-weaponised energy, and that is why we have extraordinary increases in energy prices – the likes of which we have never seen, but it’s not the fault of this government.”

When further pressed by reporters that people were struggling with the cost of living prior to the outbreak of the war last February, the Taoiseach replied: “There is no question the war has driven prices, there is no question and I think we need to have perspective and an informed debate – of course people want the government to respond to the crisis and what I am saying is that we will respond to the crisis.”

Deputy Martin warned that energy prices “are going to go higher again into the final quarter 2022 and first quarter of 2023” but that thee government would again respond to help people facing historic high bills.