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Budget was always set to be more bland than brave

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Budget boys...Ministers Paschal Donohoe and Michael Noonan were the centre of attention in the Dail this week.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

We play the same game every year in the run-up to the Budget – endless speculation about what will be in and what won’t be in. And there are always leaks but last year we had a torrent.

This year has been different again; if you examine the three-page “confidence and supply” deal between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil there is a specific reference to “no surprises” in the Budget.

So before Michael Noonan and Paschal Donohoe uttered a syllable on Tuesday afternoon, we all kind of knew what was coming.

They had about €1.2 billion to swill around, most of which went on spending. On the tax side, there was an incentive for first-time house buyers (harshly criticised by Fianna Fáil for targeting the demand side rather than the supply side).

There was also some reductions in USC (half a percent shaved off three rates); relief for the self-employed; a reduction in the rates of CGT for businesses being sold; and upward changes to thresholds for inheritance tax.

Perhaps the biggest story on the spend side was a universal childcare package, worth over €100 million.

Most families, with children in care for 40 hours a week, are now entitled to an extra €900 each year. That rises to €8,000 for the least well-off. It was more generous than predicted.

There was last minute wrangling over the commencement date of the €5 increase for pensioners, carers and those suffering from disabilities. However, despite threats from Fianna Fáil, there was compromise, with the increase kicking in a little later in the year.

The reason for that was that if it had commenced on January 1 it would have broken the bank for Donohoe. By delaying its introduction he could get the costs down for 2017. When the full-year cost kicks in in 2018, all things being equal, there will be more money in the economy (and in the Budget) to comfortably accommodate those increases.

The only ‘aul reliable’ that got a kicking was tobacco with the price of a packet of 20 cigarettes increased by 50 cents. There was also funding to recruit more Gardaí, teachers and frontline health staff.

The whole thing was more or less out there for the past few weeks, though there was some horse-trading over details. Fianna Fáil needed to get its spake in (it will claim credit for a lot of the education sections).

So too did the Independents and the Alliance specifically secured a reduction in prescription charges for the over-70s after a last-minute request ahead of the budget.

The likes of Sean Canney and Kevin Boxer Moran also made sure that Programme for Government items relating to the West of Ireland, particularly to do with flooding and rural renewal, were looked after.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

The only thing Boris Johnson actually believes in is himself

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Boris Johnson...clinging on despite all the odds.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

This is a column that is a little bit about a political question – and a lot about how political leaders manage to cling on to power. The political question is the Northern Protocol, and the leader clinging on – despite all the odds – is, who else, but Boris Johnson.

How he has managed to stay in 10 Downing Street defies all precedent. Many of his predecessors have fallen on their swords for much, much less.

Since becoming Prime Minister, Johnson has careered from crisis to crisis, disaster to disaster. When it was agreed by the EU and the UK, he hailed the Northern Ireland Protocol as a triumph.

As the Prime Minister he ousted, Theresa May, reminded him in the Commons this week when she was speaking of his low stock among international leaders: “Actually, I suspect they are saying to themselves why should they negotiate in detail with a government that shows itself willing to sign an agreement, claim it as a victory, and then try and tear it apart in three years’ time?”

That’s a good question. Johnson is now trying to destroy something he partly created. And the litany of other contradictions run deep. He spent weeks going around the place joking about Covid, shaking hands, and downplaying its seriousness. Then he caught it and almost died from it.

The number of deaths in Britain from Covid were among the highest, pro rata, anywhere. It would have downed another leader. But not Johnson.

In fairness, the British were the first to come out with mass vaccinations even though the decision to extend the time period before the first and second jab was not a great one in retrospect.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Varadkar/Doherty spat a portent of things to come

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Tanaiste Leo Varadkar on his feet, attacking Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty, in the Dáil last week.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

For those who watched in anticipation to see what would happen between Henry Shefflin and Brian Cody after Galway’s Leinster Final loss to Kilkenny, they were waiting for the type of tetchy encounter that happens on a regular basis in the Dáil.

Trading insults is part-and-parcel of parliamentary proceedings but there are occasions – and they have become more frequent of late – when they become visceral. It can happen when somebody needles or provokes an opponent into saying something personal.

The most infamous, of course, is Green Party TD Paul Gogarty telling Labour’s Emmet Stagg to “f*** off”. But there are legions of examples, including from those who were normally very good at keeping their composure in the face of provocation.

That included Bertie Ahern who was so riled by Gay Mitchell’s accusation of him putting up a smokescreen on financial policies in 1994 that he shouted across the chamber at the Fine Gael Deputy.

“Nobody’s smoke-screening,” he shouted. “Perhaps if you stopped waffling, if you stopped waffling, we might get some work done. You’re a waffler, you’ve been years around here waffling.”

The needle between Fine Gael and Sinn Féin has been consistent for years, invariably following a familiar theme.

Sinn Féin accuses Fine Gael of being an out-of-touch elite, an old boy’s network, unconcerned about the plight of ordinary people.

In turn, Fine Gael accused Sinn Féin of being a party with shady finances, shady people and a shady past. When the going gets tough, it offers a menu of tax-dodgers, criminals, murderers, and murky finances that have made it the richest party in the country.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

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Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Refugee crisis leaves state holding political hot potato

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Minister Eamon Ryan...’really challenging situation’.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The picture at Moran’s Red Cow Hotel last weekend was not one that would lift the soul. It showed conference rooms being used to provide emergency accommodation for asylum seekers, with mattresses scattered across the floors.

But it’s not a surprise; the numbers of refugees and people seeking international protection has gone through the roof in the first five months of the year.

There has been a 600 per cent increase in the number of people applying for international protection in Ireland in the first five months of 2022, compared to a similar period last year.

The number of people who have applied for asylum in Ireland in the first five months of 2022 is close to 5,000, which is almost twice the total of 2,649 for the entire 12 months of 2021.

This cohort of people is separate from the estimated 24,000 refugees who have been offered accommodation by the State or by private individuals.

You can’t but surmise that the increase in numbers is caused in part by the tough new policy in the UK where asylum seekers are being flown to Rwanda for processing.

In all there are 35,000 people (including those from Ukraine) in emergency or direct provision accommodation in Ireland in 2022, compared to only 6,500 people last year. The comprises 24,000 Ukrainians and 11,000 asylum seekers. It’s over five times the number, and it’s still only June.

That sheer volume has put authorities here under considerable strain to find adequate accommodation.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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