Nobody has done as well out of this budget as Brexit. Kevin 'Boxer' Moran didn’t do too badly either, but when the smoke clears, Brexit will be declared the big winner.
Brexit was one of three threats demanding attention in Paschal Donohoe’s Budget 2020 speech. The main threat, climate change, is existential, but apparently not considered urgent. Brexit is a threat that could deliver an economic wallop and then some. And, as this is a political forum, the third threat came from voters demanding an election budget.
So Mr Donohoe provided a whooping €1.2bn to cope with a no deal Brexit. It was as if he was saying to Boris Johnson, “Look! That’s how seriously we take this malarkey. Time to get your skates on”.
But while the minister was casting cautious eyes across the Irish Sea, he forgot that you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the climate is blowing.
In terms of the existential threat to the planet, Pascal funked it once more.
Carbon taxes are controversial but, as he pointed out in his speech, accepted as a policy by “all party or near all party consensus”. Yet in the end, the minister only increased the tax by €6 a tonne, much less than the €15 recommended by the Climate Change Advisory Committee.
This is where Boxer landed a few jabs. The Irish Examiner reported on Monday about Boxer going 10 rounds with Donohoe on the impact of the tax on rural Ireland. Instead of applying imaginative solutions to alleviate any impact of a tax hike, the minister just threw in the towel.
Boxer’s paws were also all over a €30 million package to go to five midland counties which will be affected by the closure of peat burning power stations.
And to think that all his colleague Shane Ross could extract was an aul broken down garda station.
As far as the climate emergency was concerned, the only imagination on display on budget day came from outside government buildings where the Extinction Rebellion people at least put on a display of colour and rage.
The minister made no inroads in addressing fundamental changes required if the threat is to be taken seriously. For instance, the most he did in terms of transport was to provide for a few new charging points for electrical cars. If you already own an electrical car and you don’t smoke (cigs up 50 cents), this budget was for you.
Climate change is, the minister noted in his speech, “the defining challenge of our generation”. And nobody could argue that he is failing to rise to the challenge.
By contrast, the threat from the voters was addressed with a scattering of smarties. The living alone allowance went up €5 which was a nod to pensioners who vote in great numbers. The free medical card for the over-70s was expanded, which was a nod to pensioners who vote in great numbers. Next to nothing was done to tackle what is a housing emergency because those at the frontline – the young and the poor – don’t vote in great numbers.
Political Correspondent Juno McEnroe joins Political Editor Daniel McConell to break down the main details from Budget 2020.
Fianna Fáil claimed credit for some of the smarties, presenting themselves as representing the plain people of Ireland in talks with the heartless Blueshirts.
The party’s Mary Butler jumped all over an increase in homecare hours. “No doubt many Fine Gael TDs will be heading to the plinth to say that this was a reckless demand on our part but I make no apology for it,” she said. For the record, Ms Butler is the spokesperson on Older People, not a comedian.
“It’s a status quo budget from a status quo government,” the Green party’s Eamon Ryan noted. There was precious little in the plan to challenge that statement. Perhaps the Taoiseach and his minister for finance are just too scared right now to apply any imagination to their task.
They’re scared of Brexit. They think they should look scared of climate change. They’re terrified of the voters. And then there’s Boxer.