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Local households 'being left behind in government's flawed retrofitting scheme' - Clarke

Sinn Féin TD for Longford-Westmeath Sorca Clarke has called on the government to heed the warnings of experts that their retrofitting programme is not fit for purpose.

Deputy Clarke says that the programme fails to address the significant challenges faced by rural households in Longford-Westmeath, many of whom are elderly and on low incomes, when attempting to improve their home’s heating and energy efficiency rating.

Her comments come following today’s hearing of the Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection, which was addressed by speakers who were critical of the government's programme.

“Today’s meeting confirmed what Sinn Féin has been saying for some time now. Ireland’s poorest, coldest homes are being left behind in what essentially constitutes a massive wealth transfer between rich and poor households. This includes households here in Longford-Westmeath, where rural communities feel badly let down by government.

"In a period when the cost of living is sky-high and levels of energy poverty are at some of their highest rates - that is totally unacceptable. People in Longford-Westmeath are already at the pin of their collar and need to see urgent action from government to ensure they get a break.

“It is clear that government’s deeply inequitable and regressive scheme has resulted in a situation in which the very people who need it most simply cannot afford to retrofit their homes.

“Séamus Boland of Irish Rural Link comments to the Committee today echoed those by Sinn Féin Environment and Climate Action spokesperson Darren O'Rourke over many years. Sinn Féin are clear that the number of fully funded retrofits is far too low; that there needs to be targeted measures to ensure that delivery is based on needs rather and than means and that those in solid fuel homes have been left out in the cold.

“Sinn Fein on the other hand propose a fair retrofit plan that will help meet our climate targets while also delivering wider social and economic benefits for workers and families here in Longford-Westmeath. Significantly, our solutions include specific measures for vulnerable groups including those on low incomes, those living rurally and those living in older homes. This would make a real difference for people in Longford-Westmeath struggling to heat their homes.

“Our plan is to spend more where it matters in order to deliver a tiered, area-targeted-based scheme aimed at low and middle income households. We propose a tiered plan targeting those most in need, and furthermore propose additional resources for social authority retrofits. Directing scarce labour resources to the coldest homes is the best use of public money, is socially equitable and will show the best return on public investment in achieving climate targets.

“Significantly, we would also establish a dedicated scheme for solid fuel homes. Rather than targeting solid fuel homes with punitive action like carbon tax hikes and turf bans, we propose to support them as part of a just transition.

"It's time for change."