Sinn Féin's finance spokesperson has called on the Government to use part of the Covid contingency fund to address the rising cost of living.

Pearse Doherty said "many people can't make ends meet" and he said direct payments must be made to low income and middle income families.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Prime Time, he called for €200 to be paid "directly into pockets of those earning below €30,000."

He also said €100 should be paid to those earning between €30,000 and €60,000.

Mr Doherty said measures are also needed to cut rents, which he said are now "sky high."

"We are in a war time economy and we have to make sure that we do not abandon our families, citizens and workers at this point in time where they are making those difficult choices in the real world in terms of eating or heating."

He said the is "€3.9 billion in a Covid contingency fund that could be used to actually implement the measures that I have outlined," which he said would cost €1.4 billion.

"This is extreme times and that's why you need to take those type of extreme measures."

Minister for Agriculture said the Government has responded and he said it "will continue to assess the situation."

Charlie McConalogue said the coalition has been "working to try and support families and people in relation to the pressures that are there."

He said in the Budget, the Government "took several measures both from a social welfare point of view and also in terms of tax measures to support low and average income families."

Minister McConalogue said school transport costs have been reduced and the cost of public transport has been cut by 20%.

He said €200 subsidy for electricity bills has been introduced, along with a €125 once off payment for those on fuel allowance.

And he said following the spike in fuel costs, the government last week introduced a 20 cent reduction on petrol and a 15 cent reduction on diesel.

The Minister said: "The Taoiseach will be at the European Council at the end of this week and he has outlined how he will be engaging with his European colleagues in relation to the further flexibility" around a cut in the VAT on fuel.

"There isn't a playbook for how a situation evolves in terms of a wartime situation, particularly having the first war on European soil for the two generations, in the same way that there wasn't a playbook for how we actually would deal with the pandemic and Covid."

He added: "We have to assess the situation, assess the pressures that are on families and respond as that evolves, and that's what we have been doing."