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Fuel Poverty -British ministers try and defend the indefensible

25 April, 2005

Sinn Féin Equality Spokesperson, South Down Westminster candidate Caitríona Ruane MLA has accused direct rule ministers of trying to defend the indefensible and of trying to muddy the debate about how we address the issue of fuel poverty.

Ms Ruane said:

"Direct rule ministers and their civil servants are trying to defend the i ndefensible and muddy the debate about how we address the issue of fuel poverty.

"The reality is that fuel poverty affects 1 in 3 and that each year 1360 older people die because of cold weather. Despite this it is clear that within the Department of Social Development budget there is no commitment to prioritise action to tackle fuel poverty.

"Cold weather related ill-health costs our health service well in excess of £30million every year. Yet if even a fraction of this figure was earmarked for the implementation of the Fuel Poverty Strategy then we could begin to tackle fuel poverty and to end the disgrace of preventable deaths related to cold weather.

"The most vulnerable members of our community are most at risk from fuel poverty. Older people, people with disabilities, young parents, long-term sick and low-income families are being put at even greater risk because there is no political will to prioritise funding to tackle fuel poverty.

"We have consistently called for a Ministerial Task Force on fuel poverty to drive for action on this issue. We are not convinced that the plans for an interdepartmental group on fuel poverty, which excludes all other partners working on fuel poverty is the way to go. We will continue to campaign for the creation of a Ministerial Task Force on fuel poverty.

"The disgraceful attempt to defend the indefensible does not disguise the fact the civil servants and British direct rule ministers are running scared of being held to account to the inept response to the scandal of fuel poverty that kills hundreds of people each and every year." ENDS

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