independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Budget 2014 political winners and losers

ONE-WOMAN WONDER: Joan Burton delivered

The WInners: Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin will be able to claim that their handling of the economy has steered Ireland through and out of the bailout.

While managing the €3.1bn adjustment, offset by €600m in once-off savings, the pair managed to avoid any major political landmines and have delivered a package that has been cleared by our European masters.

Joan Burton

SHE'S done it again. From being touted as the troublesome child in the weeks before the Budget, Burton not only came in on target, but managed to deliver €150m in savings from the Live Register (I'm sure Richard Bruton would claim some of the credit there).

She had been told she needed to deliver €440m in savings but ultimately she managed to get that figure knocked down to €229m. She also managed to claim that her good performance allowed the Government to bail out James Reilly. A one-woman wonder is our Joan.

Ruairi Quinn

ANOTHER of the big-spending departments, Quinn had for weeks been supposedly agonising about the state of his Budget figures. His cuts target jumped from €44m to over €100m because of redress payments and a reversal to cuts that were announced last year.

But ultimately, due to lower-than-expected numbers of teacher retirements, Quinn averted the major crisis and will also be hiring 1,250 new teachers next year. He also managed to protect pupil/ teacher ratios and the student grant, which had both been lined up to be attacked.

Alan Shatter

THE deeply unpopular Justice Minister can also be included in the winners as – for the first time in three years – he will be able to hire new gardai next year. Such a move is one of the most tangible signs of the country's recovery and is always a hit with the voters.

THE LOSERS

James Reilly

WITHOUT question, the big, big loser of Budget 2014 is Dr James Reilly, who stands totally isolated and discredited this weekend.

Reilly delivered a massive Budget overrun, which is only likely to get much worse before year end.

Both he and HSE boss Tony O'Brien were forced to concede that they are facing into the greatest challenge in the history of the health service.

Expected to deliver €666m in fresh cuts for next year, Reilly-stated target figures are already being openly questioned by his own cabinet colleagues. He remains in his position solely because of the support of Enda Kenny. A total disaster.

Leo Varadkar and Michael Ring

LEO and Michael may have saved the 9 per cent VAT rate for the hospitality sector and got the controversial airport tax abolished, but their failure to protect the sports budget is a major blow. Funding is returning to 2006 levels and represents a further dent in the hopes for our rare sporting heroes.

Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein

BOTH the main opposition parties will have to ponder where they went wrong, given their failure to land any significant blow on the Government over the Budget.

Michael McGrath for Fianna Fail is undoubtedly a credible financial politician but some, even in his own party, felt he was too passive with Noonan in key debates.

Sinn Fein is a party at sea. Reeling from the Gerry Adams controversy and the poor decision to back the abolition of the Seanad, the party failed to land a telling blow on the Government. Pearse Doherty, who pushed the party to support the Seanad abolition, looked a shadow of his former self.

Sunday Independent

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