Budget 2014: Review

IN the first 24 hours after all austerity Budgets, the public reaction usually emerges. Some issues catch fire immediately. Others are slow burners.

Government back bench TDs are fairly satisfied this evening that the tax and spending cut measures outlined by Minsiters Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin today, are politically safe compared to recent years.

Keeping the bulk of voters happy by not increasing income taxes, the state pension or child benefit, will help make this Budget more palatable.

But there are some issues that are already coming in for strong criticism which could cause headaches over the coming days.

A reduction to maternity benefit, for example, will mean women out on leave after child birth will be down by €32 a week.

The reaction of older people, who have shown their ability to be vocal on cuts, is also awaited. Around ten per cent of over 70s will lose their medical cares. The age group will also be faced with an increase in prescription charges which will rise to €2.50 for every item of medicine they buy.

They will lose the telephone allowance, worth €114 a year to older people, and the bereavement allowance to help pay for the cost of burials and funerals will be abolished.

Other cuts might take longer to hit home. Not included in the Budget speech, but outlined in the small print, is a cut of €37 a week - from €230 to €193 - in the Invalidity pension for people over 65s.

Other cuts that will cause problems not immediately - but down the line - are plans to save €113 through "medical card probity" . It is still not clear how this will be achieved, but there are some concerns it will involve an acceleration of cuts to discretionary medical cards based on medical needs rather than income.

In a speech that lasted 36 minutes, Michael Noonan portrayed a narrative of the country's journey through austerity - starting with the arrival of the bailout troika under the Fiannna Fail administration, and ending with the exit from the programme later this year.

"We are well along the recovery path and it is time now, as a nation, to begin to look forward," he told the Dail to applause from the back bench Fine Gael and Labour TDs.

A chapter will have closed on Irish history once the measures are introduced, he said. But ultimately, only time will tell, how it measures up in terms of fairness.

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