Brendan O'Connor: Herr Santa, I've been a good boy
Every year, at about this time, all the boys and girls in Leinster House sit down and write a letter to a man in a far, far country telling him what they would like for Christmas. They keep the letters top secret and don't let anybody see it, even those of us who'll be paying for it. And then they send it off.
Meanwhile, in a far, far country is a man with a big list. He knows who's been naughty or nice, and he checks it twice. And when that man sees how good the boys and girls in Leinster House have been, he tells his elves what to give them. That man is called – you guessed it – the head of the Bundestag Finance Committee, and all the elves are the members of the committee.
And then, on a cold night in December, when all the unsuspecting boys and girls are asleep, the man sends a big bag of gifts to Ireland, and that bag of tricks is called, you guessed it, the Budget. And all the boys and girls in Leinster House can barely sleep they are so excited to see what will be in the Budget. But they always manage to fall asleep and they hardly ever catch a glimpse of the head of the Bundestag Finance Committee as he leaves the Budget there in the middle of the night.
Everybody in Ireland pretends that the Budget actually came from our own Cabinet, and that's what we tell our gullible children, because we look to see the innocence on their faces. But all the adults know, even though we don't talk about it, where the Budget really comes from.
In fact, in recent years, some of us even caught a glimpse of the men in the Bundestag with the Budget, before we in this country even knew what was in it. But we told the children that that was not the real Budget, and that the man in the Bundestag wasn't really the man who made up the Budget, he was just one of his helpers.
And every year, the mammies and daddies in Leinster House go to huge trouble to pretend that they are there agonising over the Budget. They even try to put out a story that the man in the Bundestag doesn't exist – that he is the made-up children's story. And they pretend they can't talk about the Budget because they haven't decided yet who is getting what. But what they really mean is that they can't talk about it because the man in the Bundestag hasn't told them yet what is in it.
So for the sake of the children, let's all pretend that jolly, twinkly eyed Michael Noonan and his three little elves, Brendan Howlin, Eamon Gilmore and Enda Kenny are in charge of the Budget. And let's all act surprised when we come down that morning and see the Budget. Even though we will have heard all about it from the Germans already.