Wednesday 16 October 2019

Nicola Anderson: 'Donohoe's doomsday Brexit Budget the shape of things to come'

Greeting: Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe at Government Buildings in Dublin yesterday on his way to delivering Budget 2020. photo: pa
Greeting: Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe at Government Buildings in Dublin yesterday on his way to delivering Budget 2020. photo: pa

Nicola Anderson

BURIED amid the dreadful script to the film 'Dumb and Dumberer' was one good line: "So this is what rock bottom feels like. Meh. It's not so bad."

The same could be said of Paschal Donohoe's doomsday Budget. If only we could believe him when he says this is as awful as it will get.

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It's hard to avoid the sinking feeling that it could get 'rock bottomer'.

With no less than 38 separate incantations of the word 'Brexit' - not to mention the numerous darkly specific references to 'no deal' - the Finance Minster left us in no doubt that this Budget is intended as a fairy ring to protect all we hold dear.

As we stand on the brink of the abyss in the dark, unaware of where the cliff edge is but just knowing that it is close, Paschal intends for us to be prepared. Because Paschal is a 'prepper'.

Belt and braces, but also parachute, lifeboat, Sou'wester and high-energy snacks. That's the way he rolls.

There is just one problem. Preppers are desperately dull. It's all very well stocking up on beans and putting new batteries in the torches but until the storm hits and the wind is howling, it's impossible to get the adrenaline going in everyone else.

In his new leather shoes and his nice navy suit, his important homework beautifully bound in a brown leather folder and his dimpled smile valiantly flashing, he posed for the customary photo shoot.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Gerry Mooney

"Hello everyone," he greeted us. Well, of course he did.

Going through his mind is the heroism and the bravado and how he's carrying us all to safety through the burning flames of Brexit.

And all we're crassly thinking is: "Yawn."

The foolishness of us, thinking that this is the dullest budget in the history of budgets when the latest chatter across the water shows us that the flames are already licking our feet.

Every good horror movie starts off with the eerily normal bit before everything takes a turn for the worse - and, let's face it, Budget 2020 is probably it.

And with the Extinction Rebellion protesters clambering urgently outside, there was certainly a 'last days' vibe to the whole event on a number of fronts.

But all we could concentrate on was the fact that there were no goodies or giveaways here.

Definitely no 'Champagne Charlie'. Just 'tinned potatoes Paschal'.

No wonder this was the first time in living memory that the press gallery at Leinster House was tragically gap-toothed. Usually there is a good, healthy bust-up over seats.

The customary Budget day fizz in the chamber had flat-lined.

Amid the new political reality, there was not even the appropriate weeping and gnashing of teeth from the Opposition. It was all very strange.

Straight face: Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe presents Budget 2020 at Government Buildings in Dublin. Photo: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Reuters
Straight face: Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe presents Budget 2020 at Government Buildings in Dublin. Photo: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Reuters

At 1pm, Paschal rose to his feet and began his speech.

Beside him, the Taoiseach slowly chewed gum in as discreet a fashion as he could manage. He looked exhausted.

On Leo's left sat the Tánaiste who, too, looked in need of a good night's sleep. The Brexiteers' japes are taking their toll.

Paschal spoke of doom and gloom in the most reassuring tones, which made it sound even worse.

As well as Brexit, the economy is at a risk of overheating. Risks to the global economy are multiplying. Climate change.

There was cross-party support to increase the price of carbon, he told us.

"Not from me anyway," sniped climate change sceptic Danny Healy-Rae.

But our economy is in a strong position facing into Brexit, Paschal told us, as Mattie McGrath heckled: "Is that your opinion?"

He was going through the Budget with his green highlighter pen.

Michael McGrath, Fianna Fáil's finance counterpart, pointed out that we will have to borrow €2bn if no deal becomes a reality and that, "by any measure, the figures are chilling".

"We're potentially only three weeks away from a no-deal crash-out," he added sternly.

The Government were motionless in their seats.

It took Barry Cowen to add a bit of the old vim and vinegar to the proceedings, cheering everyone up with a reminder of how any show of discord would be leaped upon by "Tory posh boys whose history lessons ended at the Irish Sea".

He mocked Sinn Féin with: "Under Adams it was 'they haven't gone away, you know'," then claiming: "Under McDonald, it's they haven't turned up, you know."

Shane Ross got a look in as "the Minister for Photobombing" and as "a scary story sports people tell their children if they are bold". "If you say his name three times in the mirror he will appear for a selfie," he chortled.

Afterwards, Mary Lou McDonald had to ask the Extinction Rebellion crew to move away from the gates of Leinster House so she could get her car out. "I have to go to a wake," she told them.

Irish Independent

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