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Tuesday 2 September 2014

Fionnan Sheahan: It's like the Budget never happened

Fionnan Sheahan

Published 12/12/2013 | 23:32

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Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore

Budget backlash? What Budget backlash? Indeed, what about Budget 2014? Despite containing €2.5bn worth of extra taxes and spending cuts, it's like it never happened.

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Every other year around this time, the Government is normally enmeshed in protests against whatever unpopular measures are contained in the Budget.

The bringing forward of Budget 2014 to an earlier date altered the timescale, so there wasn't the regular pre-Christmas rush to get a U-turn or push through the more unpalatable measures.

Ignoring the timescale, the lack of an individual big-ticket measure to latch on to meant Budget 2014 managed to emerge relatively unscathed.

The Government followed up the smooth passage of the Budget with the announcement of the successful clean exit from the bailout.

Without even having to say the country had turned a corner, the Coalition sent out a significant signal that the pain was finally resulting in some gain.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore are now reaping the reward with a bailout exit bounce in the opinion polls.

Fine Gael's support is up four points to 30pc, with the Labour Party also off the floor with a three-point rise to 9pc. Satisfaction with the two leaders is also up, along with a big six-point rise for the Government itself.

After having a clear run for the best part of three years, the opposition parties have suddenly come to a halt. The Opposition has made no capital off the back of the Budget and the continuance of the austerity policies they decry so often.

At a time when there should be plenty of hay to be made from the property tax debacle and the abject handling of the cull of medical cards, there's no easily won support out there anymore.

The Government has every intention of milking the exit from the bailout for all it's worth.

This weekend, a series of ministers will herald the departure of the troika and aim to sell the Irish example to an international audience.

On Sunday night, the Taoiseach himself will mark the occasion with a state-of-the-nation address.

Fine Gael got a bigger bounce, reaffirming its status as the best-supported party, but Labour will take heart after the previous disastrous poll, which resulted in predictions of demise for the vast bulk of its TDs.

Both coalition parties still have a long way to go to match the support of the 2011 General Election, but their leadership will feel there is room for optimism.

Everything appears to be going the way of the Coalition just now.

Mr Kenny and Mr Gilmore can enjoy it while it lasts.

Irish Independent

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