Budget 2012: What have we learned? A 20-point guide
1. Budget 2012 is the Twilight: Breaking Dawn of budgets: gruesome set-pieces, unconvincing delivery of lines and should never have been split into two parts.
2. With no careers available to speak of, there is apparently no need for career guidance counsellors anymore. Hundreds of education posts have been chopped.
3. Yes, Ryanair is important to the economy, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan acknowledged in a very rare concession to the negotiating hand of Michael O’Leary.
4. The fuel season now officially lasts 26 and not 32 weeks, says the Government, whose faith in the mildness of September and April will surely come back to haunt them, and us.
5. Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin’s speech was a touch generic – in that he declared that a switch to cheaper generic drugs would save us millions.
6. Post-speech press conferences will be scheduled later next year, so that ministers who depart the Dáil to attend them are not taunted by the Opposition for knocking off early.
7. It would not be good if one of Ireland’s expat billionaires were to suddenly go rogue and attack the mother country, as the number of army brigades is set to be cut from three to two.
8. “Many young men and women now see their future in farming,” according to Noonan – a self-sufficiency that could come in handy when Western civilisation implodes.
9. Cash fares are dead. Public transport fares will increase next year, but passengers who buy the pre-paid integrated Leap card will, despite the name, be cushioned from most of the jump.
10. Private health insurance = rich man’s luxury. The VHI warns its premiums will rise by a staggering 50 per cent as a result of changes to private beds in public hospitals.
11. It’s no longer especially economical, if indeed it ever was, to have more than two children, as families with three or more kids take the hit on child benefit cuts.
12. The back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance will no longer be paid to parents of two- and three-year-olds, on the grounds that they don’t go to school.
13. On the advice of Nama, upward-only rent reviews are here to stay – a case of “up UORRS” to retailers. It will save taxpayers money, partly because there will be fewer shops.
14. Public sector spending will be subject to “evidence-based expenditure policy”, which is code for not throwing cash at useless, pointless things.
15. Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald accused Labour of “sleeveen politics”. Slang.ie says “sleeveen” implies “slyness, untrustworthiness, and obviously slippery character”.
16. Noonan enjoys caustic appraisal of the “mental arithmetic” skills of his critics, pausing during his speech to correct various Opposition assertions on the impact of the VAT hike.
17. By 2014, single parents of children aged 7 will be deemed available for full-time work and if they can’t find affordable after-school childcare, then… well… er…
18. Cheap supermarket booze is on notice, with the Government signalling that Ireland may follow in the footsteps of Scotland, which unveiled a minimum pricing bill last month.
19. If only we’d taken fewer duvet days… “Absenteeism is a problem in both the public and private sectors in Ireland,” observed Noonan, to an uncommonly packed Dáil.
20. “Difficult choices are never easy.” This was an actual sentence spoken in the Dáil on Monday by Taoiseach Enda Kenny. And who can argue with that?