TOUGH but fair, they said. Girding our loins against painful cuts, readying us for added austerity. Deep down we knew that they had to be up to something, that there was a curve ball coming.
But we never thought it would be this bad. Under the cover of property tax this, PRSI that, Universal Yokey the other, they have sneaked in the most dispiriting, morale-damaging blow that they could. The Booze Dues. The euro on a bottle of wine.
Take that, Ireland, Noonan might as well have said. Because Wine Tax is the Government getting its own back. Whine about cuts in Child Benefit, will you? Tarry over payment of the Household Charge, eh?
The Cabernet, sorry, Cabinet's been dreaming this up for months, rotating in their swivel chairs and saying: "I've been expecting you Mr Gallo."
Well touche, Minister Miseryguts. With this, you have really hit middle Ireland where it hurts.
Hands up everyone who enjoys the anticipation created by the clang of bottle on bottle in the weekly shopping trolley.
Hands up everyone whose car clinks embarrassingly whenever they go over a speed ramp because they haven't yet recycled the, eh, jam jars.
Hands up everyone who has recently been able to comfortably afford a trip to a restaurant, the theatre, cinema or local hostelry, including transport, without panicking to get back home before the clock ticks over into another hour of babysitting.
Thought so. What next? The Box Set Burden? The Takeaway Tithe? Will they be happy when all we can afford for entertainment is a dry Lincoln Cream in front of the 'Late Late'?
There will be implications, you know.
Okay, maybe slightly lower alcohol consumption resulting in improvements in health and productivity and less drunk dialling on the part of pensioners (who have no phones anymore, anyway) but what merry hell is it going to play with the price of the M&S Meal Deal – has anyone thought of that? Budget 2013, Not just screwing us. It's corkscrewing us.
"We're well on the road to recovery," Noonan said yesterday, but we don't need his help. We'll somehow find a way to keep working on our national drink problem without him, thanks very much.
It was Howlin who acknowledged, however, that "there remain difficult challenges ahead of us".
True. Like getting past 6pm on a Friday with a cup of camomile because we can no longer afford the Sauvignon.