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Fuel-ish war Ireland could face fuel rationing and public transport cuts if energy crisis spirals

The confidential memo even warned of potential food shortages due to the impact of the escalating fuel crisis on the farming industry.

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The Irish Government is expected to agree a plan to cut fuel costs by a reduction in excise duties amid spiralling price rises. (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Irish Government is expected to agree a plan to cut fuel costs by a reduction in excise duties amid spiralling price rises. (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Irish Government is expected to agree a plan to cut fuel costs by a reduction in excise duties amid spiralling price rises. (Brian Lawless/PA)

The impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on the Irish economy and society has been laid bare in a series of stark warnings given to Cabinet ministers.

A worst-case scenario briefing presented to ministers outlined how household gas and electricity may have to be rationed and public transport services could be cut if the energy crisis sparked by the war spirals out of control.

The confidential memo even warned of potential food shortages due to the impact of the escalating fuel crisis on the farming industry.

As the Government last night decided to cut duty on petrol and diesel by 20c and 15c, the memo revealed the State has already been forced to tap into the country’s 90-day reserve of crude and refined oil due to demand for fuel.

The Cabinet was also warned about the potential for a cyber attack on RTÉ in retaliation for the economic sanctions imposed on Russia following the invasion of Ukraine. This included banning Russian state media from broadcasting across the EU and on social media platforms.

Arts Minister Catherine Martin said her department was liaising with RTÉ to ensure it could continue broadcasting in the event of a cyber attack.

The memo said RTÉ had built “resilience into their systems” to protect against attacks. Last night, RTÉ said it was in regular contact with the department and added it was “subject to cyber attacks on an almost daily basis."

“Over the last couple of years, RTÉ has introduced extra security controls to increase its protection against hacking attempts, and we continue to monitor for potential attacks on a daily basis,” a spokesperson said.

The Cabinet was told the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has procured additional expertise that is on standby to assist in the wake of a wave of cyber attacks targeting Irish services and businesses.

The NCSC believes there is no immediate threat of a cyber attack but it is paying attention to areas that may be targeted because of the sanctions on Russia including the energy, telecommunications and financial services sectors.

The Cabinet was told the “spill-over effects” of the Ukraine war and international sanctions have directly exposed Ireland to higher energy prices which will hit households and businesses.

This in turn will lead to a slowing rate of economic growth with implications for jobs and the public finances.

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The cost of gas, oil and electricity will significantly increase for all consumers, domestic and commercial, in the short and medium term, the Cabinet memo warned.

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Truck driver Adam Johnston, from the Aid From Ireland organisation, departing Dublin Port with 25 other trucks carrying 500 tons of aid destined for Ukraine. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

Truck driver Adam Johnston, from the Aid From Ireland organisation, departing Dublin Port with 25 other trucks carrying 500 tons of aid destined for Ukraine. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

Truck driver Adam Johnston, from the Aid From Ireland organisation, departing Dublin Port with 25 other trucks carrying 500 tons of aid destined for Ukraine. Photo: Niall Carson/PA


It said the fallout from the invasion had sparked market volatility that had significantly increased the wholesale prices of oil and gas on world markets, making it more difficult for Ireland to obtain supply.

However, it warned of restrictions on supplies of natural gas, precious metals, raw materials such as timber and other valuable commodities.

It warned that shortages of natural gas and C02 could lead to a curtailment on food processing with significant and immediate implications for domestic food supply and for farmers’ incomes.

Ministers were informed about a process of “graduated demand-management measures” that could be imposed on electricity and gas consumers under the State’s gas emergency plan if supplies become constrained.

A Cabinet source characterised this warning as tantamount to “rationing” electricity and gas supplies, but stressed that supply issues were not currently being envisaged by the Government, with concerns centring on energy costs.

Ministers were told a “partial release” from the State’s 90-day reserve of crude and refined oil products had already taken place under the standing arrangements in place for emergency releases in the event of supply constraints.

The memo said measures to manage the supply and price of energy would be “essential to mitigate risks to enterprise and investment”, particularly in the biopharma, microelectronics and medical devices sectors, and added that the impact on data centres “would have a wider and significant international effect”.

The Department of Public Expenditure is working with several other departments to assess the potential scale of costs involved.

A Financial Stability Group, chaired by the Department of Finance secretary-general and consisting of the governor of the Central Bank, the chief executive of the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) and officials from each body will meet at least weekly to oversee a Ukraine crisis sub-group and undertake contingency planning.

The memo also warns it is now evident that Ireland will need to accommodate rising numbers of Ukrainians seeking refuge in Ireland “potentially on an unprecedented scale and in a short time frame."

Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman outlined plans to take over caravan parks, former military bases and Airbnb accommodation to house ­refugees .

Officials are also in discussions with Government agencies and the Office of Public Works about using State-owned buildings and land to provide accommodation.

The Government will also talk to religious orders about providing accommodation.

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