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Cold winter, fuel poverty and carbon tax

The Minister  for Social and Family Affairs, Mary Hanafin, announced that an inter-departmental group on energy affordability had been established to look at the implications of the carbon tax announced in the 2010 budget (Dail Eireann, Debates, 19th January 2010, 14).  The carbon tax would come in in May and affect solid fuels in September.    She was responding to questions from Olwyn Enright (FG, Laois Offaly) about the effects of the cold weather on vulnerable families.  The minister said she was aware that people had needed to use fuel almost around the clock during the very cold weather but there had not been demand or communication seeking help from the major organizations, the Society of St Vincent de Paul and Age Action Ireland.  She expected that when fuel bills began to come in, we would see the real demand.  People had not yet received their electricity or gas bills which would not be received for two months.  She anticipated greater demand at that stage and people should approach their community welfare officers.  €92m had been allocated to them for supplementary welfare payments.  Later, she told Joe Costello (Dail Eireann, Debates, 19th January 2010, 121) that the inter-departmental group had been convened by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources in June 2008 and would ‘commence its deliberations this month with a view to finalizing’ a strategy following consultation.