Exodus of ministers jetting off on holidays as tough Budget looms
THE country is facing another tough Budget but Taoiseach Brian Cowen and most of his ministers will be using the dog days of August to recharge their batteries before they sit down again next month at the cabinet table.
Most government ministers are taking a fortnight's holiday during August, and most will be working on the ground in their constituency during the month, a government spokesman said.
The exodus of government ministers comes as Mr Cowen faces pressure to bring in an even tougher Budget in the Autumn then expected, after the Central Bank warned his growth forecasts were too optimistic.
In its latest quarterly review, the bank put the rise in GDP next year at 2.8 per cent -- well below the 3.3 per cent in the Budget calculations.
While the Government has said it will cut €1bn off this year's spending, that still leaves €2bn to be found from tax hikes and cuts in days-to- day spending.
The Dail shut down at the beginning of July for a summer recess that will end in the last week of September. The Government has also had its last cabinet meeting and will not meet again until September 1.
Mr Cowen is expected to head for his favourite haunt of Ballyconnelly in Connemara where he has a holiday home and where he can enjoy a round of golf.
He is expected to spend a couple of weeks on holidays but a spokesman said he is never more than a phonecall away and is available to come back to deal with issues that arise.
Tanaiste and Minister for Education Mary Coughlan is also taking a few days in August, according to her spokesman. He said she may go overseas for her holiday.
However, he said, while the schools may be out, the Department of Education is working away with the Leaving Cert results and work beginning on the DIT campus in Grangegorman.
Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, who is recovering from cancer and has a heavy workload in preparing the autumn Budget, will be spending his holidays at home, said his spokesman.
However, the office of Transport Minister Noel Dempsey was less forthcoming, giving a firm "no comment" to queries as to how long he would take for holidays and where he would spend them. Mr Dempsey came in for some flak when he spent his holidays in sunny Malta during the Big Freeze in early January.
But although he returned after a week to attend his first emergency response meeting, he insisted nothing more could have been done during the weather crisis if he had been in the country. The minister said that he, like everyone else, was entitled to a holiday.
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern will be around for most of August but will be taking a few days off.
The office of Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin never comments on his holidays or where he spends them. However, it's no State secret that he likes to spend his holidays in Courtmacsherry in west Cork.
Enterprise Minister Batt O'Keeffe will be in his Cork constituency for the next couple of weeks where he will take some time off.
And Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith is also taking two weeks off in August and will be spending his time in Ireland, a spokesman said.