Aoife Moore: Budget day saw odd couple enjoying a marriage of convenience

Aoife Moore: Budget day saw odd couple enjoying a marriage of convenience

Public expenditure minister Michael McGrath and finance minister Paschal Donohoe at Government Buildings in Dublin as they prepare to present Budget 2021. Picture: Julien Behal

More than 12,000 weddings have been cancelled this year, but the Opposition would have us believe that we'd finally seen the marriage we'd all been waiting for on budget day.

After months of discussions, Paschal Donohoe and Michael McGrath appeared yesterday morning, Dáil Éireann's own Woody and Buzz Lightyear, with the freshly-bound book that had more leaks than Irish Water.

Even the Ceann Comhairle couldn't resist as he noted that "anything that hadn't been mentioned in the media" was confidential until they finished telling us what we already knew.

The buzz of a normal budget day was lacking, and if you weren't certain, one senior minister who didn't notice journalists in earshot loudly announced it "was absolute crap", lamenting "you can't even get a pint". Tell us about it, Minister.

The Opposition, although not planned, all took a similar line of attack.

Labour's Ged Nash wore out a wedding metaphor so much it seemed like he might start inventing storylines.

"After a difficult engagement ...we got the wedding ceremony in June," he said. "Today, the marriage was consummated."

When the metaphor was finally dead and we'd blocked out the mental images, his point was made: "Fianna Fáil has been subsumed by Fine Gael. The merger is complete. Fianna Fáil’s identity is gone."

Recap: Budget 2021 - The main points

Likewise, Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty, who must look forward to budget day like his own birthday, used their own words against them: "The Tánaiste once said that Fianna Fáil was a party with no ideas, no policies, and no alternatives. That was true then, and is definitely true today."

While it's true that the budget amounted to a day of no surprises and — importantly for this Government — no embarrassment, the only ministers who made their stamp on the package were those from the Green Party, who made serious inroads on their eco-friendly demands.

A quiet day might be a rare relief for Micheál Martin, but it may prove even harder to separate his party from their new spouse from now on.

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