'Squeezed middle' are true heroes of recovery
Published 04/10/2015 | 02:30
If the first swallow signals the start of summer, and a golden tint in the trees marks the onset of autumn, then a windfall of billions in tax is as reliable a bellwether of an election as we are likely to get. By any measure, the pace of the recovery has been remarkable, a fact which the Government's modesty has not prevented it from pointing out.
To the Coalition's merit, it did play a serious supporting role in salvaging a written-off economy.
But it is the labours of the "squeezed middle", and all those who felt the full brunt of the crash yet stayed the course while austerity took a bitter toll on their quality of life, who deserve the biggest bouquets.
No Government will pass up the temptation to dispense largesse to its best advantage to reap the benefits of public favour at the polls. But it is how it uses some of the €2.5bn tax bonus that matters.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan has sagely counselled caution: "Boom and bust policies have wrecked the economy three times in my political life and we won't do it again."
With such a deep bag of goodies on offer, ministers will be queueing up to get top-ups to be presented as sweeteners to a public better used to scarcity and retrenchment than reward.
It is no bad thing that EU strictures prevent us from blowing the tax bonanza. Part must be used to pay down the national debt. Here, genuine progress has been made as the amount owed by the nation is expected to fall below the milestone of 100pc of GDP.
Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin was quick to point out how far we have come since this Government came to office. "We would have given our right arm for a growth rate of 6.2pc a couple of years ago," he said. Given the shared pain, between emigration and redundancy, many feel that it has indeed cost us an arm and a leg. So the Coalition need not expect to rise on a tide of gratitude. All the same it looks set to leave things better than they found them.
It should be a case of some credit where some credit is due.
The master takes his final bow
The life of Brian Friel as man may have ended yesterday, but such was the vitality and energy of the playwright that his work will survive for many generations to come.
The humble schoolmaster from Omagh gained a stature big enough to be recognised around the world.
He did so with a blend of craft and guile. He made a bonfire of many of our national pieties and broke new ground in theatre through innovation and a willingness to take risks.
'Translations' and 'Dancing at Lughnasa' forced an essentially modest man to take to a world stage. It was talent rather than ambition that brought him into the limelight.
Global recognition did not impede his vision. The founder of Field Day lived to see Queen's University dedicate a new theatre and research centre in his honour.
His 80th birthday saw his friends Seamus Heaney and Thomas Kilroy perform readings in his honour.
Whether his dramatic fortunes rose or fell he pressed on, as laconic and inscrutable as ever.
In 'Dancing at Lughnasa' in 1990, Friel penned these lines: "When I remember it... Dancing as if language no longer existed because words were no longer necessary". There's no doubt that Brian Friel's plays are destined to dance on, even if their master has taken his last bow.