A missed opportunity for FG to make a difference
Budget 2017 was a test of competence for the Government, but it failed to get many pass marks
Election campaigns start the day a new government is formed. That might seem a little early, but the negotiations of the programme for government and a Taoiseach's cabinet selection must have an eye to the future. They set out what the parties in government are going to do. They set out what they stand for. Given this Government's life expectancy, the election campaign had to start on May 6.
The programme for government was high in aspiration and low in detail, and since then much of the running in the new Dail has been taken by Fianna Fail. So the 2017 Budget was a real opportunity to address the issues that the party floundered on in the election campaign, and to set itself out as a party deserving of support. It was Fine Gael's test of competence. It could have made a case for it to be the party of government - the default option in the way that Fianna Fail was for so long. It failed that test.
This is a strange set-up. Being in a minority and dependent on Fianna Fail and independents, the Fine Gael Government thought it didn't have a lot of room for manoeuvre.