A West Cork TD has slammed Sinn Féín for voting for the Climate Bill, which he says paved the way for carbon tax increases – and then proposing motions against carbon tax in the Dáil.
The debate on a Sinn Féín motion on Carbon Tax was before the Dáil this week, where it was noted that the price of gas had increased by 28% in the past 12 months, while the price of home heating has increased by 50%, and petrol and diesel have increased by 30% and 32% respectively. The motion said that a planned increase ” in carbon tax on fuels used to heat homes on 1st May, 2022 and transport fuels on 12th October, 2022 will increase fuel prices even further”.
Rural Independents TDs say that Green policies have damaged energy production, pointing to the closures of energy stations and halting of peat harvesting, while carbon taxes exacerbate the growing crisis in cost-of living.
In an impassioned speech, Deputy Michael Collins said that Sin Féin were opposing carbon tax now although it had supported the Climate Bill – and accused them of being “on the side of the Government” at a time when people were “frozen in their homes” because of rising electricity costs.
“This Sinn Féin motion is calling on the Government not to introduce planned increases in carbon tax in May this year and I agree. My question is why in God’s name Sinn Féin is putting this motion forward when it had a chance to vote against the carbon tax Bill and did not do so. That question needs to be answered. Sinn Féin cannot change its mind as the wind blows. It has to pick a side. It is either on the side of the Government or on our side, the only Opposition in this Dáil,” he said.
“I stood in the Dáil during a previous discussion on carbon tax and I said, much like de Valera said about Collins, namely, “It’s my considered opinion that in the fullness of time history will record the greatness of Collins and it will be recorded at my expense”, that it is my considered opinion that in the fullness of time history will record this carbon tax Bill as being the worst Bill that ever came out of Dáil Éireann because it inflicts pain on the people of rural Ireland that I represent. I and my colleagues in the Rural Independent Group have been the only political grouping in the Dáil completely opposed to every facet of the carbon tax. We have warned of its deep negative impact for a number of years. We forecast that the current cost of living crisis would emerge. We are now watching others who want to join us in tackling this deeply regressive form of taxation before it completely destroys the country and its people.”
“Carbon tax is the key contributory factor to the rising cost of living and is having a bruising impact on the price of electricity and home fuels, together with petrol and diesel. Furthermore, we do not buy the Government’s argument that the carbon tax goes back to the people in the form of income supports, such as the fuel allowance and help for low-income farmers to improve their environmental practices. After all, those supports were already in place long before the carbon tax. Furthermore, farmers are being crucified with carbon tax and not a single cent from the carbon fund has been allocated to that sector in 2022,” the West Cork TD said.
He called for Sinn Féin to “get off the fence and join the only real Opposition in Dáil Éireann, the only real group that stands and speaks for the people. We speak for the people who are frozen in their homes and tell me in my clinics and on my phone week in, week out that they cannot deal with the cold in their homes thanks to the Green Party, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. It is a disgraceful decision.,” he said.
“Sinn Féin failed to turn that around last week. It could have turned it around and helped people, but it failed to do so,” he said.
Brian Stanley from Sinn Féin said that “the planned increase in carbon tax in May needs to be halted. Before somebody gets up to give us a lecture about climate change, Sinn Féin has put forward many proposals relating to climate change in the 11 years since I came into this House but it received a very poor response to a lot of those proposals to move to a more sustainable society.”
Opposing the motion, Ivana Bacik of Labour said that “carbon tax, properly targeted, can reduce emissions, redistribute wealth and have a place in the package of measures that we need to take to tackle the climate crisis.”
Other Rural Independents also pointed to what they saw as hypocrisy in Sinn Féin’s stance.
Matie McGrath, TD for Tipperary, said “I called a vote in the convention centre on the Finance Bill 2020 and nine other Independents supported me. Every other party, including those in opposition, Sinn Féin and all, voted to give away our right to debate ten years of carbon tax increases to 2030, let alone vote against them,” he said.
“I do not know what Sinn Féin is doing. It is missing in action. It has been absent as regards this issue. It is total crocodile tears. It is nothing short of a con job. The people out there are hurting and are very sad and angry. Others do not have the monopoly on anger. The people are waiting. They must know this. They can check the record of the Dáil. When I called a vote, no party supported me. Many Deputies wanted more extensive measures. We voted to give away our right to even debate or vote against carbon tax, a right we fight for every day.”
“The Green Party can be blamed and is to blame, but its partners in government, Sinn Féin and all the parties of the left voted for that. It was not half strong enough for them. Now they are wringing their hands. There are crocodile tears. It is a Pontius Pilate job. It is a farce, a shame and an utter disgrace that they would get away with this. Sinn Féin has a brass neck to put down this motion. My God, a brass neck is one thing but this is a super brass neck. It is made of a cement block,” he said.
“Do Sinn Féin think the people are fools, eejits, morons and back in the 1800s? The Opposition voted to give away our right to debate carbon tax from 2020 until 2030. If that was not a con job and a trick o’ the loop, I do know what was,” the Tipperary TD said.
Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae said “the only thing that amazes me is when I see people here talking as if they do not know how this has happened. A lot of the people who are talking against it and saying it is wrong – I refer to the high cost of heating homes and the high cost of travelling – are those who voted for it. Now they are here saying it is wrong. They are all around us.”
“I listened to some of the speeches and to say that I was scratching my head would be an understatement. I was completely and absolutely bamboozled because I was trying to figure out whether they were the same people who voted for these measures. Many people said we were not going far enough fast enough. When they are at home in their constituencies now, they meet fine, honest-to-God people who cannot fill their oil tanks, cannot heat their homes and find the cost of travelling enormous. It is crazy,” he said.
“An awful lot of people from all sides of the House are saying that this situation is awful and that we must do something about it. They are the ones who have done it. Who said we had to tax people with additional taxes? There are other things we can do. Every person in the Chamber is deeply committed to protecting the environment. I do not believe there is one Deputy elected to the Dáil who would say that he or she does not care about the environment or that he or she is not worried about the future. Every one of us is worried.”
“I definitely do not think that the Green Party has a monopoly on worrying about the environment. That is rubbish. The real people who are worried about the environment are those who own it, namely the farmers of Ireland. They are the people who are really committed to the environment. It is very unusual to see people talking out of both sides of their mouths. It is crazy,” he added.