Friday 15 December 2017

Distracted by the wine hike while we're fleeced elsewhere

DESPITE all the kite-flying, Budget 2013 had thousands of angry voters packed behind crash barriers as expected, but they were mostly on the wine aisles at Lidl rather than Kildare Street. As soon as Michael Noonan had added €1 to the price of a bottle of wine, Newry City Council was adding 1,000 car spaces to the Quays Shopping Centre.

It seemed clear that the decision not to touch petrol and diesel was designed to make the booze trip up North less painful. The wine distraction worked: people were so panicked about whether it was cheaper to drink petrol than pinot grigio, they hardly noticed their worthless home was now being taxed on its fictional value.

The Budget would be cruel but fair, they said. Cruel But Fair now sounds like a good slogan for The Gathering. A perfect way to extract money from the unsuspecting masses so long as they feel they're all in it together.

Fine Gael and Labour seemed to be all in it together, as they nodded in painful choreography when Mr Noonan declared no increase in income tax – then quickly ran through a list of how he'll fleece you on "luxuries" such as living in a house, getting pregnant on the job, retiring from the job, driving a car or even turning to the drink or the smokes to recover from the shock.

There wasn't even a much-needed tax on kite-flying.

Mr Noonan and Mr Howlin were soon tearing into home owners, carers and children; it seemed like only a matter of time before they asked the Ugandans for our money back.

Imagine them watching Mr Noonan's tearful appeal ads at tea-time in Kampala: "Every time I click my fingers, a married couple in Athlone have their credit card application rejected."

The opposition parties could hardly contain their irrelevance. Fianna Fail's somebody-or-other complained next to another what-ya-call-him after party spinners had clearly filled the camera frame with people you've never heard of. It was all to ensure you weren't reminded of the party's long history of gigantic ministerial severance payments that had just been belatedly scrapped.

Over on RTE, Sinn Fein was represented in Bryan Dobson's studio by Padraig Mac Lochlainn, who looked like he'd just swallowed Mary Lou and was venting fury with enough fervour to give Gerry Adams a black eye.

Richard Boyd Barrett was jumping and yelling all the way through the Budget speeches as though he was conscious about traffic on the south side and whether he'd get home in time to join the beaujolais queues.

The only person who seemed missing was the Taoiseach himself. There were sightings of a silent mannequin near Mr Noonan, but it emerged afterwards that Enda Kenny's spin alert level was raised from red to ginger, his highest state of anonymity. His handlers no doubt rushed him to a bunker where he worked on more harmless trivia about his Man of Achill lifestyle for his next dinner speech.

In the end, Mr Noonan was so anxious to finish the speech, he forgot to commend the Budget to the House. Although a gentle reminder about the impending apocalypse on December 21 seemed a more fitting conclusion.

Nob Nation's Oliver Callan is on Twitter @olivercallan.

Irish Independent Supplement

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