Rising prices for steel and materials is a global phenomenon, said Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar last week in the Dáil, when Limerick County Independent Richard O'Donoghue accused the Government of being responsible for 33% of extra costs for people in rural housing, due to the shortage of imported materials.
Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party are not to blame for the rising cost of steel, timber and building materials, said the Tánaiste. “It is an international phenomenon”.
“There are many different reasons. Government spending is rising throughout the world," he added.
"Not just this Government but other governments throughout the world are engaging in a construction boom or building infrastructure and this is driving up the cost of materials.
“The disruption of the pandemic has resulted in fewer materials being produced in some parts of the world. As well as this, there are delays in distribution.
“Of course, there is also cheap money. Central banks are printing money and giving out cheap loans to business and government.
"When this happens we have inflation and the price of things that cannot be printed, such as steel, property and building materials, increase."
Deputy O'Donoghue called on the Government to simplify the process in Dublin Port when bulk goods arrive into Ireland. He said there are huge delays in the docks getting general cargo through.
He said costs have been pushed up by the forestry felling licence delay, the carbon tax, and people panicking and the Project Ireland 2040 putting more pressure on supply and demand.
“Perhaps delays at the port may be contributing to it in some way, and I am happy to look into that and see whether we can improve it, but this is very much a global phenomenon”, said the Tánaiste.
“The Government is not responsible for Brexit. Brexit is something that happened when the people in the United Kingdom decided they were going to leave the European Union, and it has consequences.
"It has consequences in terms of checks on imports into this country and on the taxes that must be levied."
He said forestry felling licence delays are down to a decision made on environmental grounds in the courts, and the Government is now responding to it.
He said businesses have a responsibility to make sure they know what the Brexit rules and regulations are.”
"We provide a grant to businesses of €8,000 a year to help them figure out customs.”
“When it comes to the felling licences issue, I absolutely accept we have a problem and the Minister of State, Senator Hackett, is working on it as hard as she can, and she will come up with a solution.
"It was down to a court case and not one that we wanted.”
Deputy O'Donoghue said it is currently very difficult to get staff in construction, haulage, hospitality and in many other industries. “Surely the apprentice scheme needs to be escalated and a system put in place.
"Industries such as haulage have huge concerns around getting drivers into the future, due to the delays at the ports.”
The Tánaiste said, “In a few months' time, provided the virus does not surprise us again, we will be in a very different place as an economy and society.
“We will see a really rapid recovery in our economy due to Government investment, pent-up demand and deployment of the €12bn or €14bn in savings now in our banks above where we were in 2019.
“We will find ourselves in a place in a few months time where we will still have hundreds of thousands of people in receipt of welfare payments of working age but at the same time hundreds of thousands of vacancies in the labour market.
"And, particularly in areas such as construction where we need to build so much, from houses to public infrastructure, in areas such as care where we need so many more people to work and in areas such as technology, digital, pharmaceuticals and others.
“We have 10,000 apprenticeships, 10,000 work placement schemes, 50,000 new education opportunities, and a new Department driving the agenda, and making sure we match people to jobs and that they have the skills necessary.