Between two and three thousand people have attended a cost of living rally in Cork city.

Many of those attending warned that they face a stark choice of deciding between heating and eating this winter.

Friends Annette O'Mahony, 62, and Sheila Hegarty, 64, who live in Mahon and Dublin Hill in the city respectively, said they are terrified about the uncertainty surrounding rising heating bills this winter.

Annette O'Mahony claimed the Government is living "on another planet" in suggesting that people put on extra clothes this winter in order to stay warm. She said many people would dip into their savings in order to pay their utility bills but "nobody has savings any more".

Sheila Hegarty is on the widow’s pension. She says people like her are struggling.

Annette O'Mahony and Sheila Hegarty

"The cost of electricity, fuel, food; if you run a car. I really feel anyone on a State pension is afraid," Sheila said. "They are talking tiny increases in the Budget. What will we get? Maybe €5 next year.

"You can’t budget when you don’t know what is coming doing the road. People are living hand to mouth.

"A lot of elderly people who would have had money have probably given it to youngsters to try and give them a start."

Donna Alexander from Douglas in Cork, who is in her mid-30s, feels she did everything the right way in life. However, she is struggling to pay her bills.

"I am angry," she said. "I am working full time. I have done everything the right way. I have gone to college. I pay my taxes. I work hard. Now I feel I am bleeding money just to survive.

"It is everything. It is not just fuel: it is food; it's electricity. It is so unfair. I am sick and tired of seeing the Government basically protect the people who are doing this. Protect the organisations that are causing this instead of doing what they are elected to do, which is to serve the public."

Donna says that keeping the house warm is going to be an impossible task this winter.

"It is coming down to the idea of 'do we heat the house only X amount of days a week, or do we try to do without unless it gets really cold'. Do we just buy a load of candles instead of turning on the lights?

"It is at that point for me. Not turning on the immersion and washing in cold water in the middle of winter. I am young, but there are older people where that will kill them.

"I volunteer for a food waste charity where basically I collect surplus food once a week and you put the food on the app and it is collected for free. The numbers on that have shot up. It is everyone. It is people with kids. It is older people. It is single people."

Donna Alexander said she is struggling to pay her bills

Gerry Miller from Patrick’s Hill in Cork said he has been paying taxes since 1966 but all the money seems to be doing is "propping up lame-duck Governments".

"The only skill they have is to successfully hoodwink a couple of thousand people to vote for them. And when they go up, they pull the ladder up after them," he said.

'We need to stand up. We can't take it anymore'

Edith Busteed, 23, from Turner’s Cross in Cork attended the protest with her mother, Kate.

Kate is a childcare worker. She says her wages are small in spite of her having a degree.

"My wages are ridiculous," she said. "I see my bills soaring. Old people do need their heating. Vulnerable people need their heating. If you are in a situation of domestic violence, how are you supposed to leave?

"It is brilliant to see people rising up. The Government throwing a lump sum at bills isn’t going to do anything."

Edith, who works with ROSA, the Socialist Feminist Movement, says whilst prices are rising wages are staying the same.

"The people who are hit the most are those who don’t have a lot," she said. "We need to stand up. We can’t take it anymore. There is power in the people. There is multiple problems. You have the housing crisis. People are sick of it all."

Meanwhile, among the speakers was Socialist Party TD for Cork North Central, Mick Barry, who said people are tired of the constant struggle to survive in this country.

"We refuse to go hungry or to let others to go hungry," he said. We refuse to freeze our homes this winter. We will not carry a can that is not a crisis or our making.

"Do the Government think that we fail to see the mass profiteering going on around us? Two million euro in profit a day by the ESB. Energy credits are not going to cut it. We want and demand a freeze on price increases."

Socialist Party TD for Cork North Central, Mick Barry

Other speakers included Valerie Conlon, a former Debenhams shop steward who took part in the historic picket in the city when the firm closed its Irish operations; Antoinette Burke of Family Unite for Services and Support; and Sinead Roche of University College Cork Students' Union.