The Government has been challenged to introduce an immediate reduction in excise duty on fuel to tackle spiralling price rises caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said people cannot wait for a financial package from the Government as they are struggling to fill their cars and heat their homes.
In response, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the Government was actively considering how it can help those struggling with energy costs.
During leaders’ questions in the Dáil, Mrs McDonald said: “The price of energy and fuel has soared over the last year and prices have risen even more rapidly following the criminal Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has resulted in an unprecedented interruption in the global energy market.
“The cost of petrol at the pumps has gone up by 70 cents a litre since January of last year and we are now at a point where many people can no longer afford to put fuel in their car to get to work.
“In that same timescale, the price of home heating oil has doubled and households are now being charged more than €700 for a half-fill of oil. Families now struggle to keep their homes warm. I know that many people are layering up with clothes, some are just heating one room or not heating their home at all.
“These fuel cost hikes are not sustainable for any worker or any family or small businesses. People are already hammered by extortionate rents, unaffordable house prices and ever rising costs of insurance and childcare.
“It seems you are not ready to take action this week to reduce the cost of fuel.”
She added: “The Government needs to cut the price of petrol and diesel through an immediate reduction in excise duty. At the pumps, we can get prices down by 25 cents per litre immediately by cutting excise duty immediately.
“The spiralling cost of home heating oil could be cushioned with the immediate removal of excise duty.
“These measures need to be introduced now as a matter of urgency.
“I am asking that the Government does this now so that people will see an instant price reduction at the pumps and in their home oil bills by midnight.”
Mr Martin said: “Prior to the war, we already had significant increases in fuel prices. There is no question that the war on Ukraine is going to increase further the escalation of fuel prices.
“The Government is acutely aware of this issue. We don’t argue that the impacts on people are not sustainable at the rates that these increases are occurring because Russia’s systemic role in energy supply will have significant impact on prices.
“I can say that there is an EU Commission paper on this emerging, hopefully within the next day or two. Also, the Government is giving this very active consideration.”
Mrs McDonald told the Taoiseach that the “crisis is now”.
She said she is “well aware that the EU Commission is bringing forward proposals” but said: “I am asking again that a financial resolution be brought before the Dáil this week, tonight or tomorrow night, that will have the effect of reducing excise on petrol and diesel and removing excess from home heating oil. I am asking you to do this now.”
The Taoiseach responded: “Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, the Government has been very actively considering the response to the crisis.
“The impact of the war will be very serious and significant for all nations across the European continent and will be a long haul in terms of our response to it.
“What we would normally do, in normal times, will no longer be the approach we will have to take as a society.
“The Government is keeping this under very active consideration and will be responding once that consideration has concluded.”