YOUNG and old have been left reeling by a series of cutbacks in today's budget.
No one was spared as Michael Noonan reduced dole payments for under-25s, hiked student fees and prescription charges, axed the bereavement grant and slapped 10 cent on cigarettes and alcohol.
And savers were hit hard as the minister announced DIRT would rise from 33pc to 41pc.
The move is aimed at older people sitting on cash piles at a time when the Government wants more spending.
Mr Noonan has risked a ‘grey brigade’ revolt by targeting a pensioners’ allowances.
The government is making it harder for over-70s to get a medical card and scrapping the €144 OAP telephone allowance.
In better news, Mr Noonan confirmed a €700m stimulus deal to kick-start the economy.
The Herald can reveal he finalised a last-minute agreement to preserve the special 9pc VAT on the tourism sector.
There was also a reprieve for motorists as there are no motor tax increases and petrol and diesel prices are unchanged.
And in an effort to build on the success of The Gathering, airport charges will be reduced from next March.
The minister announced a scheme which will see more than €4,000 provided for the retrofitting of new houses.
One of his most controversial moves is a lower dole rate of €100 per week for under-25s.
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams described this as a policy of “forced emigration”.
Meanwhile, the price of a pint and a measure of spirits will rise 10 cents. A package of cigarettes will go up by the same amount, while a bottle of wine will go up by 50 cents.
Capital Gains Tax and Capital Acquisition Tax will see a small rise while a levy imposed on retail banks will raise €150m.
The student contribution charge for third-level institutions will increase by €250 to €2,750. Education Minister Ruairi Quinn announced the charge would increase by €250 until it reached €3,000 in 2015.
The move to hike the tax on savings, known as DIRT, will force savers to hand over €41 for every €100 in interest.
It's also been confirmed that the bereavement grant is being chopped – a sum that is used by families to cover the burial costs of their loved ones.
And painful cuts are to hit medical card holders, with one in 10 pensioners over 70 to lose their full entitlements.
Health Minister James Reilly is also set to receive a mixed reaction to his individual health measures.
But the Fine Gael TD will attract plaudits for introducing free GP care for under-fives.
Confirming the scheme, Mr Noonan said it was aimed at helping young families.
“I think everybody knows that the extension of the medical card to the under-5's will be part of the budget,” he added. “I think that's of great benefit to those young couples who have young children, many of them now both going to work.”
However, he will face staunch criticism for overseeing a further hike in prescription charges, which will increase from €1.50 to €2.50 for medical card holders.
The €45m homeless budget is being maintained. Funding for flood projects – channelled through the Office of Public Works (OPW) - is also being kept at the same rate.
By Niall O’Connor and Kevin Doyle