Séan Neeson MLA stated: “Why are consumers in Northern Ireland paying substantially more for their energy compared to consumers in the UK and the Republic of Ireland ? We need action from the Executive to tackle the energy crisis.
“The recent establishment of the single electricity market has helped to develop closer co-operation between the markets and the generators on both sides of the border. Why are consumers not benefiting from the single electricity market?
“The biggest problem for energy consumers here is that there is not enough competition in the market, unlike other areas of the UK and even the Republic of Ireland . Commercial consumers can purchase electricity from Airtricity, which uses renewable energy sources, and that is to be welcomed. In the natural-gas market, Firmus Energy has capped prices, but its market is much smaller than that of Phoenix Natural Gas.
“The recent price increases have created a major problem for consumers in Northern Ireland . It is predicted that up to 43% of consumers here will be thrust into fuel poverty, and that is a crisis that the Assembly cannot afford to ignore. The Minister for Social Development Margaret Ritchie and her Department have already drawn up plans to deal with the crisis. Sadly, those plans cannot be enacted without the approval of the Executive. It is unforgivable that Sinn Féin is preventing that from happening. Sinn Féin has always tried to portray itself as a party of bread-and butter politics; however, it is now portraying itself as a party of brood-and-bitter, not bread-and-butter, politics. Heating and eating are the issues of the day, not the devolution of policing and justice. Is it any wonder that Ministers feel so frustrated at the present impasse?
“The Executive must meet immediately to deal with this crisis, as well as assisting the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety Michael McGimpsey in dealing with free prescriptions for Northern Ireland . If devolution is to mean anything to society, it is our responsibility to tackle the important issues. That is an opportunity, not a threat. The Assembly must be fully operational in all its functions.”