Fine Gael politicians pressure Varadkar to take more action on soaring fuel costs before Budget

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TÁNAISTE Leo Varadkar has come under pressure from Fine Gael TDs and Senators to take more action to reduce fuel prices before the Budget in October.

he rising cost of petrol and diesel dominated a shorter-than-usual meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party at Leinster House on Wednesday, which also heard a call to abolish car tax in the October Budget.

Backbenchers Joe Carey, Brendan Griffin and Bernard Dukan were among those to call for further action by the Government to reduce fuel prices before the Budget later this year.

Mr Carey said the lack of access to public transport in rural Ireland meant that people are reliant on petrol and diesel cars and called for an immediate intervention to curb soaring prices, arguing it could not wait until the Budget.

Senators Regina Doherty and Tim Lombard were also among those to call for action for the Government before October.

Mr Lombard said car tax should be abolished, saying that it was the biggest issue in west Cork, where he is based. He argued that the reduction in public transport fares had done little for people living in rural Ireland.

Mr Varadkar told colleagues he would consult with Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe on the matter, but is said to have highlighted that the Government may have reached the limit of what it could do under the EU directive

Mr Donohoe, who was attending a meeting of EU finance ministers on Wednesday, has in recent weeks told colleagues in Government that VAT on gas and electricity cannot be reduced any further as part of EU VAT rules.

He is also said to have pointed out that cuts to excise duty of 20c on petrol and 15c on diesel made earlier this year are multiples of what has been done in the UK where excise was cut by only 5p.

Senators Micheál Carrigy and Paddy Burke are also understood to have raised the issue of licensing for filling stations to sell certain fuel products, which include having to carry out tests and upgrades on their fuel tanks.

Such measures involve huge costs, the parliamentary party was told with Mr Carrigy said to have warned that as many as seven out of 19 filling stations in his native Longford may have to close as a result. Mr Burke supported him on the issue. Mr Varadkar said he would raise it with Mr Donohoe.

The meeting was told there would be a special parliamentary party meeting to discuss Fine Gael’s Budget priorities will take place on Tuesday, June 28.

Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar told colleagues that the Mica compensation scheme brought to Cabinet is a good plan and said the Government intended that it would be on the statute books by the summer recess so it can be up and running by the end of year.

He said he wanted to see hundreds of houses being repaired, demolished and rebuilt next year.

Elsewhere at the meeting, a motion from Justice Minister Helen McEntee to extend the Leap card “short hop zone” to 55 km distance from Dublin city centre so that it would include the towns of Gormanston, Laytown, Drogheda, Enfield, Newbridge and Wicklow was agreed unanimously.

The party was also told that Fine Gael’s pre-Dáil think-in will take place on the 9 and 10 September with the party’s councillors to be invited to attend the second day of proceedings.



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