From boom to bust ... Brian's Budget bonanzas

Brian Cowen Budget 2006

John Downing

BRIAN Cowen was Finance Minister from 2004 until 2008.

In 2004, he played Santa Claus in his first Budget. There were no tax increases whatsoever, and the biggest welfare increases in the State's history. Pensioners got €12 more per week; dole was up by €14 per week; child benefit rose €10 and by €12 for the third and subsequent children.

First-time house buyers were exempted from stamp duty on second-hand houses priced up to €317,500, and rates were reduced for houses valued up to €615,000.

Cowen's second Budget on December 7, 2005, was focused on childcare with a €1,000 grant for children under six. Welfare recipients shared a €1.1bn boost.

His third Budget on December 6, 2006, was the "return ticket" for the May 2007 general election. Give-aways totalled €1.25bn.

The income tax rate was cut by 1pc with the promise of another 1pc cut if his government was re-elected.

Economic stormclouds hung over his fourth and final Budget on December 5, 2007 as he was dubbed "Taoiseach in waiting".

Major car tax changes led by his coalition partners, the Green Party, stood-out. A €2.3bn surplus at end 2006 would soon be a €3.8bn deficit.