I would be embarrassed to tell you how long I have been watching Budgets. But I have to say I never saw the beat of this one for sheer largesse and munificence.
Astonishingly, two of the most prudent men in the nation, Paschal Donohoe and Michael McGrath, scattered billions and hundreds of millions to the entire nation.
Some veteran political observers saw parallels with the roaring Celtic Tiger years and the welfare hikes and tax cuts provided by Charlie McCreevy and Bertie Ahern. But somehow this Donohoe-McGrath mass splurge made McCreevy-Ahern look like skinflints.
Yet, the political success of this extraordinary €11bn giveaway bonanza may well turn on how long, cold and wet this winter may be.
If it is a long and hard one, much of the Government’s unprecedented largesse may yet be gobbled up by a continued spiral in gas and electricity prices and continued spiking inflation. Even this giveaway may not be enough.
There is little confidence among those at Leinster House that the energy crisis will just end this winter. Sinn Féin and the other Opposition parties’ predictable response was well-flagged: too little, too late and misdirected.
But this pot pourri of tax cuts, welfare hikes, grants for business to keep the doors open, €600 in three staged payments for everyone to keep the electricity bills paid, and a series of other one-off payments, is hard to carp with – for now at least.
Criticisms would ring hollow for all but the most determinedly anti-Government people as the total for one-off cost-of-living supports tops €2.2bn as unveiled by Public Expenditure Minister, Michael McGrath.
If you are really in negative mode try the concrete levy in a time of housing crisis. That appears to be the only scope for negativity and was among very few surprises with almost all budgetary facets well flagged in advance.
Every key aspect of our daily lives was the subject of lavish additional spending and subsidies. It also appeared to address all three coalition parties’ key priorities fairly evenly.
Fine Gael got some tax changes, Fianna Fáil got something for renters at long last, and the Green Party held the environmental line with their Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman getting to put his name on promising childcare measures.
Mr Donohoe gave a long discourse on how a third rate of income tax will be studied – and maybe even might be acted upon, all going well.
His party leader, Leo Varadkar, spent much of the summer talking about this 30pc middle tax rate. Lots of his Finance Minister’s words could be seen as a “fig leaf” for the Tánaiste, who will soon again be Taoiseach.
But the lingering question remains: will this package fly politically? On other such big days the key factor in answering that question was if the Budget was off the news agenda before the end of the week, then it was a win for the Government.
This one is very different. It may well be the end of February before the Irish people are able to give a verdict on what Mr Donohoe and Mr McGrath delivered. Winter weather, as dispensed by the capricious and mythical “clerk of the weather” may prove decisive.
On Budget day last year, Mr Donohoe argued that inflation would be a passing trend. This Budget, he was the exact opposite with 2022 inflation at 8.5pc – and even when spiralling energy costs are taken out, inflation will still be 5.25pc.
There were also frank admissions by Mr Donohoe on Ireland’s over-dependence on corporate tax revenues, which cannot be relied upon into the future.
Despite all the lavish spending, a sense of anxiety still hung over Leinster House last night and it is shared by the Irish people.
It is strange to also say that this Coalition may not get much of a popularity bounce from this munificence.
Sinn Féin’s march to government is likely to continue.