Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has pledged the budget next week will involve a multibillion euro package that people will see “in their pockets and off their bills within weeks”.
He said the benefits will be deployed “well before Christmas. And people will also see a multibillion euro package which will take effect in the new year”.
Mr Varadkar also said the budget would be an opportunity to deal not just with the immediate energy crisis but also to deal with the high cost of living that was in place “long before this current inflation crisis”.
He said “there are areas in which the cost of living in Ireland is out of kilter”, with “countries similar to ours in northern Europe” — in childcare, healthcare, public transport and rents.
As well as dealing with the energy crisis, the Government could also “bring down some of those costs where we have been out of kilter with other northern European countries,” he said.
Mr Varadkar told Labour leader Ivana Bacik there will be a “response of scale” from the Government to help people amid the cost-of-living crisis.
Ms Bacik, whose party unveiled its alternative budget on Thursday afternoon, called for a “really massive, substantial” €4 billion package of measures.
She urged the Tánaiste to cap childcare costs for families so they should pay no more than €200 a month, in line with other EU countries. The Dublin Bay South TD also called for the introduction of a €9 monthly ticket similar to that introduced in Germany, “even for a six-months period”. Ms Bacik also called for the extension of free GP care for all children under 18.
Mr Varadkar said he looked forward to the Labour proposals and to perhaps taking some on board.
But he said there were capacity constraints in the childcare sector “If you reduce the cost dramatically, then demand rises and you get left with a different problem of capacity.”
He said they had to “square that circle” to ensure they do not solve one problem by making another one worse.
The Tánaiste noted Germany abandoned its €9 monthly ticket but said there had been a response to the State reducing transports fares by 20 per cent or 30 per cent. “We’ll give consideration to extending that and maybe even improving on that in the context of the budget next week.”
He said the Government had managed to extend free GP care to under-sixes and to people with terminal conditions and those receiving carers’ allowance but to date it had not been successful in discussions with doctors and the Irish Medical Organisation to extending free care to other age groups.
Earlier, Mr Varadkar said in exchanges with Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty that any concessions for landlords would also have to apply to renters.
Mr Doherty said an entire generation was locked into the unaffordable rental market and could never achieve their dream of their own home. He said rent averaged €1,500 and more than €2,000 in Dublin.
He called for tax credit for renters to put a month’s rent back in their pockets and for a freeze on rent increases.
Mr Varadkar said there could be “record” increases in social housing this year making more affordable properties available for renters.
He criticised Sinn Féin’s plan to give renters a month’s free rent through credits while at the same time objecting to the €30,000 assistance in the help-to-buy scheme for first-time buyers.
He acknowledged rents were out of kilter with other EU states but added these were a matter for the budget.
The Government will be meeting all day today and over the weekend to finalise the budget, the Tánaiste added.