The Budget: It’s not what it used to be, in more ways than one

Back in the days when there was nothing on television and nothing else to do except watch television, even the Budget was a televisual event. 

The Budget: It’s not what it used to be, in more ways than one

It was often the place where RTÉ would try out new graphics. The year they brought in shiny 3-D arrows to show things moving up or down was a big year.

Another key thing for budget-reporting is the use of Stock Footage on television. In order to represent money there is a shot of coins being made and notes being counted.

To show how the Budget affects the unemployed you need a shot of people walking, or at least their shoes. Because unemployed people have shoes and they walk. There was a pint being filled for excise news and a face from the nose down smoking for the bit where they raised the fags again. I remember the year they brought in the “typical Budget example” graphic. A toilet door man and a woman and two children. Surrounded by arrows going up and down around them.

For me the Budget was always a little abstract. We weren’t the typical family, as we were small farmers who got our bitta money from Europe and didn’t pay much tax. We listened into the bit about the petrol but that was it. It was also slightly jarring because, mainly the Budget was the word my father used for a knapsack sprayer that he used to kill weeds. It was hung up near the ‘spray cupboard’ outside. Those were the days eh? Today’s children don’t know diddly-squat about cupboards with no locks, filled with chemicals. Either way, for years a Budget was something to stay away from because it was poisonous.

Most Budgets blended into one another. Charlie McCreevey had a bit of craic one year by surprising us all and announcing decentralisation without telling anyone. An odd place to say it. Like a Best Man announcing during his wedding speech that he was knocking the hotel.

Then towards the end of the last decade it all got tenser during the bust. Each Budget had the whiff of cordite around it. In 2010 I went to the Dáil for the first time to watch it while the news trucks of the world were outside wondering if the IMF were going to do the speech.

I’d never been there before; so, it was like Bosco going through the magic door, with a collection of protesters outside banging pots and pans. They’d got the idea from Argentina where a revolution started in similar circumstances 10 years previously. Argentina is a lot warmer however. On Kildare Street, several people seem to be frozen to their pots.

The public galleries were full of the type of people you’d see in a Prime Time audience. Bertie wandered in, smiling, getting meaty handshakes from other red-faced men. He appeared to be none the worse for his recent incarceration in the News of The World’s cupboard. Remember that? I wonder will that ad ever make Reeling In The Years.

The Budget itself that year was a sneaky thousand cuts one. Disability, child benefit, the universal social charge. And it was freezing as well that winter. It was like being in the middle of a Russian novel, except with less stylish hats.

In recent years it’s calmed down a little. Now that it’s in October, the weather is better and the news not grim, so you don’t have ‘Song of the Volga Boatmen’ playing in your head when watching it. These days the Budget is just boiled down for you in a series of bullet points. The little toilet-door man and woman - or man/man or woman/woman, ’shur isn’t that the way now hah? - will just appear on your phone with a figure of how much you’ve won or lost.

Still I’m going to watch it from start to finish. Just like old times. Or maybe I’m just getting old.

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