There is a case for the prosecution and the defence. On the prosecution side, Donohoe increased the housing budget by almost €500 million in an attempt to deal with a housing crisis that threatens his party’s re-election prospects. He did the same with health, where the budget is going up by €1.2 billion, although there is no guarantee that the trolley crisis and the long waiting lists will vanish anytime soon.
The overall increases in public spending of 4 per cent has paid for other vote-winning measures such as a €5 increase in the state pension and in welfare payments. There was a €29 million allocation to pay for the start of ‘pay equalisation’ for public sector workers. There are going to be another 800 gardaí, 950 extra special needs assistants and 1,300 new teachers. There is a strong case for all of them – but creating extra public sector jobs always helps to generate some extra votes too.
whatever this budget was, it wasn’t a green budget
Donohoe avoided increasing carbon tax or excise on diesel, which would have been an unpopular move with commuters driving long distances to work. That prompted the normally mild-mannered Green Party leader Eamon Ryan to say: “Shame on you”. Donohoe had promised that we will see more of the government’s intent in the ten-year national development plan. And he is going to set out a plan to increase the carbon tax to reduce carbon emissions. But whatever this budget was, it wasn’t a green budget.
In terms of its vote-getting ability, the tax cuts are relatively modest and unlikely to sway the electorate one way or another. But this has been the final budget of the three-year confidence and supply agreement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. If no extension is negotiated in the coming months, then Donohoe has given his party a budget which has a little for everyone – and very few measures that will generate any street protests.