Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment and Climate Action, Darren O’Rourke TD, says the government’s inexcusable failure to tackle rip-off energy bills here was at the heart of the decision to temporarily close Tara Mines.
The Meath East TD was speaking following a Dáil exchange with Energy Minister Eamon Ryan, during which Minister Ryan failed to commit to meeting with workers representatives, SIPTU, to address the challenges at Tara Mines.
Teachta O’Rourke said:
“The decision to close Tara Mines has delivered a devastating blow to workers, families and the wider Meath community. People are absolutely reeling. It is difficult to overstate the scale of the impact that this will have.
“What makes this even more devastating, however, is the fact that Ireland’s eye-watering energy prices have been established as a key reason why this decision was made. Government inaction, time and time again, has produced a disastrous situation which potentially could have been avoided. This is not good enough.
“We know that wholesale energy prices have been falling rapidly yet there have been no moves whatsoever to pass this on to consumers.
“For example, wholesale electricity prices have fallen by 57% since last march. In the same time-frame, household electricity prices have risen by 63%.
“And what exactly has the government done? Absolutely nothing. Energy companies are acting with absolute abandon. It is like the Wild West out there.
“What has happened at Tara Mines is the inevitable consequence of a government that protects the profits of energy companies over and above the needs of ordinary workers, families and businesses. The situation is totally unsustainable and has been for some time now.
“We know that the parent company operates various locations in Europe and none of them have been closed. While they have also been impacted by the rising cost of zinc, one key differential is that Ireland’s energy costs are comparatively sky-high.
“We know that there are plenty of measures at the government’s fingertips that would tackle Ireland’s outrageous energy costs, providing the relief that people and businesses desperately need. Either the government has failed to pursue them to their full extent or they have completely ignored them altogether. And in some cases, they have actively blocked them.
“For example, the government continues to kick the can down the road regarding the introduction of a windfall tax. The latest news in this saga came yesterday that the legislation will be split and the cap in market revenues is delayed yet again. To make matters worse, the government has failed to follow the example of our European neighbours France and Belgium in targeting the period in 2022 when profits were highest via the introduction of a windfall tax.
“The government has actively blocked the introduction of Sinn Féin’s plan to introduce energy price caps on various occasions, a measure that is commonplace across the EU. Similarly, the government has also failed to adequately resource or mandate the CRU to oversee so-called ‘hedging’ practices in energy companies which apparently explain the reason why retail energy prices remain so high, despite having fallen in other European countries.
“When 650 direct jobs and thousand more indirect jobs are on the line it is a situation of absolute urgency and should be treated with the seriousness it deserves. The government most certainly could, and should, have done more.
“To add insult to injury, during my Dáil exchange with Minister Ryan today,he would not even commit to agree to a request from SIPTU to meet to discuss alternatives to the ‘care and maintenance’ approach proposed by the employer. That is completely unacceptable.
“Everything that can be done must be done to protect these workers and save these Jobs. Government must engage with management, the parent company and SIPTU. They also must get to grips with the cost of energy. Otherwise we will be facing this situation in more and more locations. That cannot happen. Families cannot take it, workers cannot take it, businesses cannot take it. Ireland deserves better.”