This Budget will not have something for everyone in the audience”, the Taoiseach warned sternly for home co nsumption while speaking in Slovenia last week.
But actually he underestimated the skill of the senior ministers from the two main parties, highly aided and abetted by White Paper figures that show Ireland is already roaring back from the Covid doldrums.
So there will actually be some provision for everyone in the audience, for which read the electorate. And the two Big Boys have put the squeeze on Eamon Ryan, who has been told he was lucky to get as much as he did for the revised National Development Plan last week and can go whistle if looking for more.
Housing, Health, Social Protection, Education, and, yes, Transport, are all set to benefit far more than their own ministers would have expected just a few weeks ago.
Childcare will be a subject of crowing by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil after the speeches of the two main men, Paschal Donohoe and Michael McGrath, are delivered.
There’s an effort to keep costs down, widen access – and of course to bolster the number of adult bodies able to get back to work to deal with the clarion call for staff to deliver on unlocked demand.
Increasing free GP care for children from five to seven years of age seems a particular stroke of genius. By this stage of their development, parents know full well their kids are practically indestructible, and it is expected to cost far less to the Exchequer than for earlier ages, when particularly first-time parents tend to be worried about a runny nose developing into a Dickensian pneumonia.
Besides, with new entitlements and allowances for blended working, parents will have less absentee guilt – and can soothe their offspring themselves. They’ll do it safe in the knowledge that they’ve never been better mollycoddled at school. There will be 18,000 SNAs by the end of this year, and the State will recruit 900 more in the Budget.
There are also 13,600 Special Education t eachers allocated to mainstream primary and post-primary schools, to be increased by 300 posts next year.
Together these huge forces make the ranks of An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces look small. But at least we’re due to get another 700 gardaí tomorrow, a further fillip to a population fed up with random assaults and anti-social behaviour.
A quarter of a billion euro to tackle waiting lists will be most welcome, along with the recruitment of hundreds more frontline healthcare staff – if they can find them. The State is also learning one of the lessons of Covid and committing to many more ICU beds across the country.
The less well-off will be shielded as much as possible from rising fossil fuel costs, although heating and power will be a concern across all households this winter with carbon tax rises set be to be firmly blamed on Ryan, with his focus on halving carbon emissions by 2030.
All in all, then, nearly something for everyone in the audience. Even if some might be Green with envy.