Statement following meeting of Retail Forum

10 May 2023

Labour’s spokesperson on finance, Deputy Ged Nash TD, has accused the government of being “all mouth and no trousers” when it comes to tackling inflated prices at the supermarket checkout, in the wake of today’s meeting of the Retail Forum.

Deputy Nash said:

“I said earlier this week that we needed a clear list of actions from this Retail Forum that would result in alleviating the pressure on working people’s pockets and remove the dread they feel as they approach the checkout at the end of the weekly shop.

“What we got instead is more pleading and hoping from the government and Minister Richmond that the supermarkets will see fit to cooperate and play fair.

“Hope is not a policy and pleading is not action. This charade of a meeting shows that when it comes to bringing grocery bills down, this government is all mouth and no trousers.”

“Two weeks ago in the Dáil, I called on the Taoiseach to consider introducing price controls on staple items in the weekly household grocery basket. On that occasion, the Taoiseach ruled price control measures out and said: “We do not want to go down that road.”

“Today, he claims he has “not ruled out price controls” but some well timed advice from the CCPC today is being used as crutch for the government to lean on, instead of acting in the interests of ordinary consumers.

“The truth is this government has been blindsided by this issue and they are making up their response as they go along. They had no idea this would strike such a chord with the Irish people and that is because they are hopelessly out of touch with the reality of working people’s lives in this country.

“When I challenged the Taoiseach on the issue, two weeks ago, he thought he could simply wave the problem away with a vague promise that inflation will start to fall and that will eventually be reflected on the supermarket shelves.

“If he was that confident the supermarkets and giant food producers would act responsibly and pass their falling costs on to consumers, you would wonder why we had this media showcase meeting of the Retail Forum today.

“The government seems more concerned with appearing to do something about this issue rather than actually acting on it and using the tools it now belatedly admits are in its armoury, to bring prices down at the supermarket checkout.

“As our Party leader, Deputy Ivana Bacik said today, it is not enough for the Taoiseach to hope for falling prices, his government has to act to ensure it happens.

“The government is obliged to intervene where a market fails and I would suggest that if supermarkets are trying to maintain the extraordinary profits they made during the height of the pandemic by artificially inflating their prices as their input costs go down, this market has failed.

“Labour has led the way on this issue and I’m glad to see it gathering wide support on the opposition benches, to the point where I’m starting to recognise my own voice in the Dáil speeches of others.

“What we need now is not more words, but action on behalf of the government to bring grocery prices down. We need a serious analysis from the CCPC on pricing in the grocery sector and we need the giant supermarkets to be more transparent on their profits.”

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