The new measures introduced by the Government to tackle the rising cost of living have been described as "half-baked and tokenistic" by the Labour Party.

Spokesperson on Finance, Ged Nash commented: "The Government told struggling families to expect little from their cost-of-living package and they did not disappoint.

"With the European Commission forecasting that inflation in Ireland will grow by 5% again this year, today's half-baked and tokenistic measures will ultimately lead us back to square one before long.

"Renters need a rent freeze. Workers need a pay rise and again Government is leaving them all feeling short-changed."

Mr Nash said the Government was benefiting from a VAT windfall because of rising prices on fuel and energy with "VAT returns up €400m in January versus January 2020."

He added: "By any measurement today's conservative package from a conservative government has objectively failed to ensure that sufficient support finds its way to the people who need it most."

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe told RTE's Prime Time that in adopting this universal payment strategy for the energy rebate, the Government's assessment was that speed was of the essence.

He contended targeting supports at people who most need them would have meant many months of work, and financial assistance not being available until later this year.

Sinn Féin's Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty earlier today contended that the plan would only "scratch the surface" of the problems being faced by lower and middle income workers.

His party has called for the carbon tax rise to be paused, a freeze on rents to be introduced and a cost of living cash payment to those earning up to €60,000.

Speaking on RTÉ's Prime Time tonight, Mr Doherty said the rebate on energy bills should not be paid for holiday homes.

He said the Government should have acted earlier to deal with the rising costs of living and he had first raised the issue back in September.

The Sinn Féin TD said he was against the planned increase in the carbon tax this May - and that it would add to energy bills that have already increased this year.

The Social Democrats said the Government's response to the cost-of-living crisis was "not sufficiently targeted at those who need help the most".

Co-leader Catherine Murphy commented: "The vast bulk of the funding announced today is for a blanket €200 electricity credit that will be paid to every household, regardless of income. In fact, the owners of 62,000 holiday homes in Ireland are set to receive a €12.4 million bonanza under the government’s plan.

"Many high earners who receive this payment do not need it, but there are others in desperate need of substantial support who are barely keeping their heads above water.

"The government had time to target this payment, but opted not to."

Ms Murphy wanted to see a rise in core social welfare rates "which have only been increased by a paltry €5 in the past three years".

The Social Democrats are also seeking an increase in the minimum wage and a €300 refundable tax credit for those on incomes below €50,000.

Dublin-based Green MEP Ciaran Cuffe said the reduction in public transport fares will make a real difference as "175,000 workers use public transport to get to work".

However, Claire Kerrane, Sinn Féin TD for Roscommon/Galway, said there was little or no public transport in rural areas.

Cork North Central Solidarity TD Mick Barry said: "Households are down over €2,000 per annum - this package falls very far short. Scrap USC and replace it with a wealth tax. Set a tough maximum price for electricity."

He also repeated his call for the minimum wage to rise to €15 per hour and urged the Government to make public transport free.

Independent TD for Roscommon/Galway Michael Fitzmaurice called the new measures "anti-rural and anti-motorist".

"While the measures announced are welcome, the package as a whole offers little to nothing for those living in rural Ireland who have no other choice but to get in their car in the morning and commute to work," Mr Fitzmaurice said.

"The cost of diesel, both white and green, has risen continually for months. The price of fertiliser has skyrocketed.

"Agricultural contractors and hauliers alike are under serious pressure given the rising fuel costs."

Dr Seán Healy, CEO of Social Justice Ireland said: "Those who were left behind in Budget 2022 have been left behind again in Government's cost of living package."

He added: "The failure to benchmark social welfare rates and make tax credits refundable means people on fixed incomes and in low paid employment, who have been most impacted by rising costs, will continue to struggle.