For a brief moment, Leo Varadkar let his mask slip. One of his junior health Ministers, Jim Daly, had suggested that elderly people keep their heating on during the extreme cold.
But Varadkar jumped in and stated that this was not government policy. With an ice coldness that resembled the weather outside, he declared that the government could not give a ‘blank cheque’ to those fearful of the cold.
This was shocking stuff as Ireland has one of the highest levels of cold–related deaths in the EU.
It is estimated that there are 2,800 excess deaths each winter as a direct result of fuel poverty. Over 1,500 of these occur in the South.
One in eight people say that they cannot afford to heat their homes properly and the main reason is the high cost of heating.
The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has stated that it costs approximately €4,000 a year for the average family to heat their homes.
Vulnerable groups such as pensioners and lone parents are particularly at risk.
Those who die prematurely are classified as ‘excess deaths’.
As a former Minister for Social Protection, Varadkar must have been aware of these facts. But he tried to get away with making no extra payments to those suffering fuel poverty.
However, public pressure forced him to do a U turn and introduce a double fuel allowance for one week because of the extreme cold.
Nevertheless for a brief moment, the ice cold nature of Varadkar’s government was revealed.