Why Fine Gael is right to demand an early budget

Dan White

The speed with which the twin Irish financial and political crises are spinning out of control is truly frightening.

With the intervention of the EU and IMF having failed to quell market fears about Ireland's solvency, and the Greens' petulance having now triggered a political crisis also, we badly need something, anything, that would ease the fears of bond investors and Irish voters.

That something is almost certainly bringing forward, as has been suggested by Fine Gael, the date of the 2011 Budget by a week, from December 7 to November 30 (next Tuesday).

Today the Government was publishing its four-year financial plan.


This envisages €15bn of public spending cuts and tax increases between now and the end of 2014, with €6bn planned for 2011.

The four-year plan will contain the broad outlines of the 2011 Budget.

Having already published the broad outlines, it should surely not be beyond the wit of even our discredited Cabinet, that is if they could be bothered to get up off their well-padded posteriors, to have the actual Budget ready for publication within six instead of 13 days.

After all, if Brian Lenihan could bring forward the date of the 2009 Budget by almost eight weeks from early December 2008 to mid-October 2008, why, when the crises we now face are far more serious, can't we bring forward the 2011 Budget by just seven days?

But no.

Instead, in yet another example of the sloth and torpor that has settled over this dying Government, Taoiseach Brian Cowen rejected Fine Gael's eminently sensible proposal to bring forward the date of the Budget.

Once again Cowen seems determined to place narrow party interest ahead of the national interest.

Bringing forward the date of the Budget would help achieve two things.

Firstly, by reducing the uncertainty surrounding Ireland's finances, it would demonstrate to the outside world that we are determined to get a grip on our problems.

Secondly, by allowing the finance bill to be passed by mid-January, it would bring forward the date of the general election this country so desperately needs.

If the date of the Budget were brought forward, and our TDs were prepared to do their patriotic duty and allow the Dail to sit over Christmas, it would be possible to have the finance and social welfare bills, which give legal effect to the Budget provisions, on the statute book by January 14.

This would involve the Dail sitting every day, Monday to Friday, except Christmas Eve, Monday, December 27 and Monday, January 3, a total of 30 sitting days.

This should be more than enough to pass a finance bill.


With the Constitution specifying that there has to be at least an 18-day gap between the dissolution of the Dail and the date of a general election, that would allow the general election to be held on Tuesday, February 1, as near as makes no difference to the Greens' demand for a late-January general election.

With the dreadful uncertainty making our situation even worse, Brian Cowen should, even now, accept the Fine Gael proposal to bring forward the date of the Budget.

The fate of Ireland is far too important to be held hostage by the laziness and lassitude of Cowen and his colleagues.