Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has told the Dáil that it is "wrong" and "totally unfair" for the Government to tell people at "breaking point" due to the spike in the cost of living that they must wait six months before they will receive additional assistance.

She said families had been "pushed to the edge now" and Government needs to "act now" and introduce an emergency budget, adding that people "can't wait until October".

Ms McDonald contended that the Government's response to date had been "slow" and "lacked urgency".

She said her party accepted that the Government cannot do everything, but she argued that ministers "can do more".

The Sinn Féin leader said that families were facing a "very difficult back-to-school period" and "a brutal winter".

In reply, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that Government had responded to the public need more quickly than many countries across Europe and he dismissed any suggestion that the public was being told to wait for six months.

He said he accepted that there are "huge pressures on families and households", but pointed out that Government has already spent €2.4bn in addressing the rise in the cost of living.

The Taoiseach said that the "wider economy is still growing" and it was a priority for Government to "protect it as long as possible".

He contended that the Sinn Féin leader would damage the economy if her party's policies were implemented, claiming they would "chase inflation" and lead to a return of the stagflation of the 1970s.

Mr Martin said Government has taken action and will take more action to alleviate the pressures of people.

Ms McDonald said she was "appealing" to the Taoiseach to change position and help families who are "suffering now".

He replied that the problem was largely driven by the energy strategy of the Russian President Vladimir Putin, adding: "We cannot allow him to win that strategic battle."

The Taoiseach also told the Dáil that the "biggest fear" for the Irish economy is the threat of "stagflation for a long period of time".

He added that measures introduced in the Budget to tackle the rising cost of living needed to be "targeted". He said the Government was now setting expenditure levels for all Government departments.

The Taoiseach said that it seemed every month TDs in the Dáil wanted another billion euro to be spent on measures to tackle the rising cost of living.

"No doubt if something was announced next week people would be looking for more the following week," he said.

He was responding to Catherine Murphy, co-leader of the Social Democrats who said she was "struggling to understand why you are refusing to alleviate problems at this point".

Calling for an emergency budget, she said that people "cannot hang on" for the Budget in October.

Ms Murphy said that the situation is going to get worse and people were worried how they would heat their homes.

The Tánaiste said the only Government plan is for a major intervention at Budget time to tackle the rising cost of living.

Leo Varadkar said the rationale is that there is only so much financial firepower and it is going to be the autumn when the bills hit the hardest.

He said the aim is to help people out with cash in their pockets on Budget day, but also to tackle areas with structurally high costs such as childcare.

On his comments to the Dáil last week on not ruling anything out, Mr Varadkar said it was not possible to rule anything out because things are changing rapidly.

"With so any shocks and surprises in recent years, I would be afraid to rule anything out but that's not the plan," he said.

He said no figures were agreed at last night's meeting of the three coalition party leaders, but they have agreed to index tax bands and credits.

Mr Varadkar said that the Minister for Finance is working on allowing private sector employees to receive a bonus of €1,000 tax free. Currently, any bonus is taxed above €500.

Additional reporting David Murphy, Sandra Hurley