‘May you live in interesting times’ (Chinese curse)
Deaglán de Bréadún
The level of pre-Budget speculation is greater than ever and this can be attributed to two things. Firstly, kites are being flown about the dreadful things ministers might have to do, if they are pushed too far. A speech to your parliamentary party is a good vehicle in this regard, because it is bound to be leaked afterwards to the media.
This, of course, generates reaction among backbenchers and the general public and strengthens that particular minister’s position – at least in theory.
Secondly, there are the tensions between the two government parties. One hesitates about even using the word “tensions”. Perhaps, “sensitivities” would be better. Just as individual TDs have to placate their geographical constituencies, so, too, the coalition parties have to keep their support-bases sweet.
In Labour’s case, the unions need to be kept more or less “on side”. As long at the Croke Park Agreement on public sector pay and conditions remains intact, there should not be too much trouble from that quarter. However, there are rumblings about the price other sectors and the general public are seen to be paying, e.g., in the form of a Value-Added Tax increase, and the finger is increasingly being pointed at Croke Park.
These murmurings of discontent are not a serious factor at the moment. When we get around to the next Budget in December 2012, the climate could be rather different. Besides, the Passport Office dispute gave a glimpse of the potential for disruption on the part of public sector unions if they are riled.
The whole Budget exercise is being conducted in the shadow of dramatic events on the European stage. The future of the euro as a currency is in the balance. There are moves for new treaty changes: that’s all we need in this country, another referendum!
Discipline is the watchword. What a pity the same level of stringency was not applied when the eurozone was set up originally. It is obvious at this stage that Greece should not have been allowed to join – and I have the highest regard for that wonderful country and its people. Maybe we shouldn’t have been let in ourselves! Did nobody notice the laxity of our regulatory system and the crazy exuberance of the property bubble?
Historians will enjoy sifting through all these issues. Unfortunately, it is a lot less fun for those of us who have to live through these “interesting times” which are taking on an unhappy resemblance to the 1930s with every passing day.