Friday 18 October 2019

Kevin Doyle: ''No drama' and few giveaways are just the calm before the storm'


Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe pictured in his office in the Department of Finance preparing Budget 2020. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe pictured in his office in the Department of Finance preparing Budget 2020. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

We live in such strange times that the idea of a 'giveaway' Budget would be a turn-off for many voters.

At least that's what politicians in the main parties have been telling us over recent days as they play down expectation ahead of Budget 2020.

Fianna Fáil says it is facilitating Paschal Donohoe's fourth day in the limelight only for the "greater good".

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After revealed details of his bust-up with the Finance Minister, Kevin 'Boxer' Moran told reporters things are so tight that tensions are bound to flare.

"This the eve of a general election. Governments in the past tried to buy votes. We're not buying votes here. Are we giving out chocolates? No. We'll give out some sweets and Smarties," he said in his own inimitable way.

And Mr Donohoe himself has been at pains to soften the country up for a dull and boring Budget day. But of course the minister has a reputation for being notoriously upbeat so it won't be all doom and gloom and this isn't an austerity Budget. Far from it.

The Government will today issue a rallying cry to the nation, telling us 'we stand ready to act' if Brexit goes wrong.

Big figures for contingency funds to help the agri sector, tourism and small businesses will be announced alongside vague details.

However, it won't all be about Brexit. With that election looming, Mr Donohoe will want to present Fine Gael's vision for the future - even if he can't pay for it all upfront.

Sources suggest he will talk about using the public purse to build a "bridge to the future". In many cases, that bridge will lead to 2021 when measures linked to healthcare and childcare will come into full effect.

Fine Gael will be able to go into the next election, in either November or May, telling voters it has set money aside for free GP and dental care for children.

There is €900m for infrastructure - new schools, primary care centres, housing, roads, and public transport.

And in excess of €400m will be spent on pay increases for teachers, gardaí and other public servants next year.

So there is plenty of good news for the Government to announce today while still stoking the perils of Brexit.

For the Opposition, though, it won't be enough. It never is.

Fianna Fáil has been unusually quiet this year despite having a major say on events. Its finance spokesman Michael McGrath promised "no drama" and he certainly delivered.

It will adopt a 'neutral status' so that the Budget passes through the Dáil - but you can be sure it will attack it as lacking ambition.

Fine Gael got its attack in first, sending a team of well-briefed backbenchers to the Leinster House plinth yesterday to describe their underwriters as "sensitive little flowers".

Today will mark the beginning of the end of confidence and supply, so Brexit aside, the Budget is the calm before the storm.

Irish Independent

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