Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Committee on Budgetary Oversight

Pre-Budget 2022 Scrutiny: Irish Fiscal Advisory Council

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent) | Oireachtas source

I thank Mr. Barnes and the other guests for their presentation and replies so far. When we are talking about financial prudence, planning, strategies and where exactly we are going, one of the biggest issues I can see for business, budgets and everything is surety of energy supplies for our country. If we do not have power, everything grinds to a halt. There is an enormous cost being placed on people at the moment because of the ever-increasing cost of energy. This is having a real distorting effect on our economy. Every economic commentator will tell us the way things have changed so much in the past 18 months with the costs of our basic energy needs. It is frightening and we might ask where it is going to stop. The next thing then is surety of supply and whether we are going to have uninterrupted power for the next three or four months. Even if we get over this winter, will we have an assured energy supply next winter? We must look at the Government's decisions to date and think about what we are doing here.

Over the past number of days we have had the news breaking that 200 lorryloads of peat have been imported from Latvia because we have shut down Bord na Móna. It might seem like a small issue but it is a really big issue. The importation of peat briquettes from Germany goes on unabated as we have closed our peat briquette-making factory. Returning to the matter of surety of supply, the Government is now faced with a scenario where the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Deputy Eamon Ryan, is finally conceding we will need to hire generators that use gas. This is going to cost an awful lot of money. It is going to be very bad for our environment. We must look at what the Government decided to do. To make us look good, it shut down our power plants. The result of that is we are bringing in generators to ensure the lights do not go out and that everybody who is so concerned about everything in the environment will have some way to charge their phones and boil the kettle.

The general transition probably will not work, ultimately, and we will just have to buy the power from France and England, which produce it with nuclear power stations. We know what is happening in China, which is building hundreds of coal-burning power stations. This type of policy will not do our economic credibility any good, including among people wanting to come here, like we have heard, including the Intels of the world, and their take on what our Government has done. The reality of decisions taken over the last 12 months is starting to bite us. From an economic perspective and a good economist's point of view, how are we looking to the world and to the rest of Europe because of what is happening to us? If the lights go out in Ireland, that will be one of the worst financial damnations that could happen to us because it would show us up as having made really poor political decisions and having left ourselves extremely vulnerable to every type of financial market. What will be the result for our industry if we cannot be sure that we can pump petrol and that we can keep computers turned on? If we have a debate here today on anything to do with budgets or finances without discussing the result of what this Government of the Green Party, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael has done, we will be ignoring the elephant in the room.


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