Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin at Government Buildings ahead of their Budget presentation. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times.

A 50 cents rise in cost of 20 cigarettes - effective from midnight - is only tax increase

The €1.5 billion package of tax cuts and spending increases contains a number of sweeteners. Photograph: Getty Images

Reductions in USC, a rise in the old-age pension, more teachers and gardaí to be hired

Brendan Howlin, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and Michael Noonan, Minister for Finance speaking to media after the publication of End of September 2015 Exchequer Returns at the Department of Finance. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Minister for Finance expected to announce USC concessions in the region of €600m

Enda Kenny: Labour told the Taoiseach had no reason to change his previously stated views on a spring 2016 election “at the moment”. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Coalition sources acknowledge bond between party leaders must be repaired

Tánaiste  Joan Burton and Minister for Business and Employment Ged Nash. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

Labour may have to pay a price for facing Fine Gael down on timing of general election

Tánaiste Joan Burton with Taoiseach Enda Kenny: Mr Kenny declined again to shut down speculation about a November poll. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Government indicates a Christmas welfare bonus of 60 per cent is on the cards this year

 Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Joan Burton. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Frances Fitzgerald says date is Taoiseach’s prerogative as Coalition tensions go public

Joan Burton raised the timing of the election with the Taoiseach in a meeting the two had before yesterday’s Cabinet meeting. Photograph: Dave Meehan

Tánaiste’s hopes for a spring election contain an element of wishful thinking

Taoiseach Enda Kenny who discussed the timing of the general election with  Tánaiste Joan Burton on Thursday. Photograph: Collins

Kenny and Burton discuss election timing, Tánaiste insistent it be held in Spring

The show was to take place from April 24th-29th, the anniversary dates of the Rising. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Party proposal for light show considered overtly political in run-up to anniversary

The only new tax increase to be announced by the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan will be an increase in the price of tobacco.

Coalition sources rule out increase in tax on diesel and petrol in Tuesday’s budget

Michéal Martin: Has described the incident as “very serious”. Photograph: The Irish Times

Party leader Micheál Martin tells Jerry O’Dea to make further statement on controversy

A proposal to use the customer databases of cable and satellite providers Sky and UPC to track down television licence fee evaders has been rejected.

Coalition set to refuse proposal which would have given An Post access to TV firm records

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was asked four times this morning if he will call the election before Christmas and declined on each occasion to say whether it will take place this year or next.  Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Taoiseach says decision to call poll will be made in ‘best interests of the country’

Ibrahim Halawa has been detained since August 2013. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa charged with taking part in banned 2013 Cairo protest

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan taking selfie. Applications can be made through smartphone app. Photograph: MerrionStreet

FAQ: Who can apply, how to apply, where can the card be used?

RTÉ headquarters. It is understood the pay rises will affect 230 people. File photograph: The Irish Times

Salary boost will be performance related unlike previous incremental pay system

 Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Coalition promise leads to renewed speculation about the date of the general election

Taoiseach Enda Kenny must decide to hold the general election within two possible windows - before or after Christmas, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan (pictured) has said. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times.

Minister for Finance says date of poll a choice for Kenny who is a ‘very good political judge’

 Exchequer figures released on  Friday will show that tax payments in September beat the official target by more than €300 million. File photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Partial restoration of Christmas bonus and €600m extra for health on cards

Former tánaiste and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said he was honoured to accept the position. Photograph: Frank Miller

Tánaiste Joan Burton welcomes ‘prestigious position for Ireland’

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and DUP leader and former first minister Peter Robinson took part in a conference call with Minister for Finance Michael Noonan to discuss the sale of Nama’s Northern Ireland portfolio. Photograph: Michael Cooper/PA Wire.

SF politician told Stormont inquiry into Nama sale he had been ‘kept in the dark’

Ministers move to quash growing talk of poll taking place in November

David Donoghue, Ireland’s ambassador to the UN: ‘At the moment, our stock is very high.’ Photograph: Eric Luke

Irish diplomats’ work strengthens campaign for UN Security Council seat

Ireland has further steps to take to ensure women are treated equally in society but gender equality worldwide must be a priority of our foreign policy, President Michael D Higgins has said. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times.

Michael D Higgins says women’s rights under threat from ‘extremist groups’

President Michael D Higgins, sitting next to Brazilian footballer Kaká, said the elimination of hunger “in our lifetimes” is a “powerful idea”.

President tells UN gathering extreme undernutrition is caused by ‘endemic poverty’

Lorraine Clifford Lee, who unsuccessfully contested the Dublin City Council ward of Pembroke-South Dock in last year’s local elections, is to run alongside Senator Darragh O’Brien in Dublin Fingal.

Party currently without a TD in any of the capital’s constituencies

President Michael D Higgins has called on voters to reject “cynicism and nihilism” and engage in the democratic process as the general election approaches. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times.

Asked about Labour’s prospects, Higgins says ‘there are others you should ask that question’

President Michael D Higgins was speaking on Saturday at a session at the UN General Assembly in New York. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

President hails promise to tackle inequality but says ‘paradigm change’ needed to fulfil it

President Michael D Higgins has said Ireland needs a better way of dealing with incoming refugees and migrants and changes should be made to the existing system soon. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins.

The quicker direct provision changes the better, Michael D Higgins says

Taoiseach Enda Kenny delivers his address at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit  in New York. Photograph: Matt Campbell/EPA

Oxfam Ireland calls on Government to work towards goals with measures in budget

At Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, Taoiseach Enda  Kenny said Ireland is particularly attuned to the current migrant crisis in Europe, given our history of emigration. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Irish ‘particularly attuned’ to EU migrant crisis, Taoiseach says in Connecticut speech

Minister of State Michael Ring: “This is going to be the best year for tourism if it continues. It won’t be the best year since the recession – this will be the best year ever.”  Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Michael Ring says measures needed to revitalise coastal and rural towns

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe was presented with a list of six options by the NTA last year.  Photograph: The Irish Times

Rail connection to airport is expected to be centrepiece of capital plan

The current inheritance tax threshold of €225,000 applies to all assets. Photograph: The Irish Times

Budget 2016: Government considers raised threshold that would apply solely to homes

Leinster House ushers have been urged to withdraw from work for tours scheduled for Culture Night. File photograph: Aidan Crawley

Impact tells members to withdraw from work over failure to implement agreements

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams: Has never been “mesmerised” by polls and insists Sinn Féin wants to be in Government. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Sinn Féin leader calls on disillusioned voters to ‘take charge’ and claims ‘IRA has gone’

Minister for Children Dr James Reilly. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Minister for Children wants extension as part of wider childcare reform package

Enda Kenny: ‘We have to have a plan and a strategy clear’. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

Taoiseach says logistics surrounding refugee housing will be made ‘in due course’

  Aodhan O Riordain: ‘Clearly there are some areas where there is a housing and homelessness crisis and space may have to be found in areas where the pressures are not acute.’ Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin says housing may have to be found away from areas with shortages

“FoI bodies should publish as much information as possible in an open and accessible manner on a routine basis outside of FoI, having regard to the principles of openness, transparency and accountability,” Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Howlin asks for public submissions before closure of consultation period next Monday

 Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin  speaking at party think-in at the Marine Hotel, Sutton, Co Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

Fianna Fáil leader challenges Enda Kenny to ‘no holds barred’ election debate

Compliance with water charges now stands at 51 per cent

Any increase is the old age pension is seen as unlikely. Photograph: The Irish Times

Budget 2016 concessions likely in last roll of the political dice before general election

Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Budget bounce and volume of legislation factors in general election timing, say TDs

Taoiseach Enda Kenny  with Minister for Finance Michael Noonan  during the second day of the Fine Gael think-in in  Adare Co Limerick. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Party strategists outline attack lines on political rivals at think-in in Co Limerick

To commit to abolishing the amendment “without consideration of what you might do is not on my radar”, says Enda Kenny.  Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Taoiseach says he would need to consider replacement of Eighth Amendment before referendum

Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD with party members during the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party meeting in The Dunraven Arms Hotel, Adare Co Limerick. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times.

Kenny unwilling to abolish eighth amendment without considering what might replace it

Kenny downplays expectation of giveaway budget following strong exchequer returns. Photograph: The Irish Times

Think-in hears party must emphasise stability in campaign, TDs and Senators are told

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. He said he would reluctantly and “with regret” support a temporary suspension of the Assembly as the better of two bad options

Flanagan says weekend is final chance for parties to prevent collapse

Taoiseach Enda Kenny: “This is a very serious day in respect of the Northern Ireland situation and the continuation of the Executive and the Assembly. The time for ambiguity has now passed.” File photograph: Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images

Taoiseach says NI institutions at crisis point, with fresh Assembly elections a possibility

Making his exit:  DUP leader Peter Robinson leaves after a press conference at Stormont on September 10th, 2015. Mr Robinson is stepping aside as Northern Ireland First Minister. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Colleague Arlene Foster to step into top role for period - all other DUP Ministers to resign

Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photograph: Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images

The party think-ins get underway ahead of the new Dáil term and a general election

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. Photograph: Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty Images

Government will agree to accommodate group from Syria, Eritrea and Iraq

Brendan Howlin during the Irish Times’ Inside Politics podcast. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Welcome facility required to assess people’s needs and health status, says Minister

Councillor Deirdre Heney and Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin speaking to media on the plinth at Leinster House in 2012. Photograph: Alan Betson

Deirdre Heney criticises party leader after Seán Haughey added to party ticket

Seán Conlan: recently involved in series of high-profile controversies. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Cavan-Monaghan deputy makes claim in letter to party members before convention

Joe Costello TD: said voting pact with Fine Gael was ‘fraught with danger’. Photograph: David Sleator

Some in party believe pact ties it too closely to FG and has been foisted on members

Brendan Howlin (L): ‘Ireland needs this Government returned to office.’ Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Labour to seek repeal of ‘pro-life’ amendment despite vote transfer agreement

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton:  It would be “madness” for Fine Gael to entertain the idea of going into government with Fianna Fáil. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister for Jobs argues coalition’s job is to persuade public economic upturn is genuine

Richard Bruton led a leadership heave against Enda Kenny in 2010, which failed.

With his record in enterprise as his calling card, he could make a pitch for finance role

‘From reading of the report it becomes quickly apparent that Martin Callinan’s resignation should never have been dealt with by a behind-closed-doors Commission of Investigation at all. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

‘Would it not have been better to have shown people a full view of what happened the night Mr Purcell went to visit the Commission(...)

Retired: the former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The Taoiseach will be relieved that the inquiry into the taping of phone calls at Garda stations has found he didn’t force Martin (...)

Migrants and refugees cross the border between Greece and Macedonia near the town of Gevgelija on Friday. More than 230,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Greece by sea this year. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Tánaiste calls for ‘global solution’ to bring peace to migrants’ troubled homelands

Senator James Heffernan, whom the Social Democrats will announce as a general-election candidate.

Party to announce a number of candidates at launch in Dublin

US Democratic Congressman Brendan Boyle: ‘There is absolutely no appetite in the United States for any sort of backsliding on the democratic institutions that exist and that a lot of sacrifice and effort went into creating.’ Photograph: Eric Luke

Belfast killing should not be used to damage institutions, says Congressman

 Lucinda Creighton and Declan Ganley at a Renua Ireland think-in in Wood Quay, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Declan Ganley urges party not to shy away from big ideas at first think-in in Dublin

Enda Kenny said the Northern Ireland discussions  will begin next week. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins Dublin

Discussions between parties to focus on welfare budget and ‘legacy of paramilitarism’

Enda Kenny: Backing for his Attorney General Máire Whelan comes after a public expression of confidence this week. Photograph: The Irish Times

Taoiseach restates support for Máire Whelan before Ministers at weekly Cabinet meeting

Taoiseach Enda Kenny  outside the Department  of an Taoiseach on Wednesday  morning. Photograph: Dave Meehan

Should key players in the commission’s interim report be concerned for what comes next?

Taoiseach Enda Kenny: Did “not intend to put pressure” on Mr Callinan to retire. Photograph: The Irish Times

Fianna Fáil is considering tabling no confidence motion in Taoiseach

Main players in the controversy (from left): former minister for justice Alan Shatter, Attorney General Máire Whelan, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan, and former secretary general of the Department of Justice, Brian Purcell.

Analysis: Despite FF threat on motion of no confidence, there’s no danger to Kenny’s position

Clockwise from top left: Martin Fraser, Enda Kenny, Brian Purcell, Martin Callinan, Alan Shatter and Máire Whelan.

These six play roles of varying magnitude in events investigated by the commission

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said an additional €1 billion was needed to meet unmet demand in the health service. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Spending squeeze ensured most of the health policies outlined in 2011 programme have not been realised

Jeffrey Donaldson MP said the word of the Sinn Féin leadership could not be relied on.

DUP MP suggests independent body such as the IMC could help assess status of IRA

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said, since the Amsterdam Treaty of 1999, “Ireland has been party to a protocol under which we may opt in to such measures on a case-by-case basis”. Photograph: Eric Luke

Minister concerned Merkel remarks suggest Ireland has opted out of response measures

 Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’Sullivan. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Minister announces third-level funding for those who have been in system for five years

 Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers will meet Government Ministers to determine if the collapse of the Stormont powersharing institutions can be prevented. File photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

DUP wants Sinn Féin out of Executive due to alleged IRA involvement in McGuigan killing

The retirement of previous Garda commissioner Martin Callinan in 2014 caused political controversy at the time, and the Opposition accused Taoiseach Enda  Kenny of effectively sacking him. The Taoiseach rejected the allegations.   File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Interim report of Fennelly Commission due to be sent to Taoiseach next Monday

DUP leader Peter Robinson (centre) will meet British prime minister David Cameron   (right) to try to avoid the collapse of the Stormont institutions. Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has repeated his party’s position that the IRA ‘has gone away’.

DUP not going to let Sinn Féin ‘off the hook’, Dodds says after Northern Secretary meeting

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern: “People should keep it calm.” Photograph: The Irish Times

Former taoiseach appeals for ‘cool heads’ to ensure Stormont survives current crisis

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has said his party has “no special, or particular or specific responsibility” to respond to allegations made about the IRA. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times.

Sinn Féin leader says his party not responsible for responding to claims about IRA

Former minister for justice Michael McDowell. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Ex-minister says Irish and British governments saw inert paramilitary as best option

Sinn Féin’s Brian Stanley: the Laois-Offaly TD said he believed the Minister for Justice had breached code of conduct ‘and we will be looking into this’. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Party welcomes Garda review, which it claims will show the IRA no longer exists

Eleventh person arrested by PSNI investigating killing of Kevin McGuigan

 Sinn Féin Laois-Offaly TD Brian Stanley, pictured with Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald, said the party has “no problem” with an assessment of the status of the IRA. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Party accuses Tánaiste Joan Burton of using the killing of two people to criticise Sinn Féin

Brian Stanley  TD said Sinn Féin welcome the IRA assessment. “We have no problem with that, we welcome that. It will show that the army was stood down 10 years ago, that it doesn’t exist.” Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Eleventh person arrested by PSNI investigating killing of Kevin McGuigan

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Micheál Martin says allegations confirm what his party has ‘believed for some time’

DUP MP  Jeffrey Donaldson. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

UUP threatens to withdraw from Executive over paramilitary link in McGuigan murder

Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan: “I am very much aware that there are a number of individuals, both acting individually and acting in consort, involved in organised crime in a number of the areas mentioned by the Senator”

Gardaí believe IRA no longer exists ‘as a body’ but individuals or groups linked to Provisionals are involved in crime such as fue(...)

Seán Haughey and Deirdre Heney:  The former junior minister  lost the Dublin Bay North selection convention to Dublin city councillor Deirdre Heney. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Séan Haughey to be added in Dublin Bay North, Mary Hanafin in Dún Laoghaire

 Gerry Adams: IRA were not involved in the killing of Kevin McGuigan in east Belfast, Sinn Féin leader says. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Party leader says no action is warranted against Sinn Féin in Assembly

Protesters at one of the many anti-water charge demonstrations since the levy was announced. Photograph: The Irish Times

Linking of grant to water charge payment unlikely until next year at the earliest

Minister of State at the Department of Finance Simon Harris will consider 11 questions on tax and the self-employed. Photograph: Getty Images

Final report will indicate how taxation can be used to encourage entrepreneurship

The Irish Times understands the proposed changes to water charges include linking the €100 water conservation grant to bill payment rather than registration with Irish Water, and significantly extending the period for which the existing water charges caps will apply. File photograph: Regis Duvignau/Reuters

‘Likely scenario’ is Irish Water will not be fully independent for up to 10 years

Tánaiste Joan Burton is expected to raise the transfer pact proposal at the parliamentary party’s away day in Wicklow next month. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Too early to talk about common policy aims for coalition partners, say party sources

Noel Dempsey: Electorate will decide and Fianna Fáil and others could then look at the options that are open to consideration. Photograph: The Irish Times

Party veterans say excluding possibility is unrealistic given likely shape of next Dáil

Dublin MEP Brian Hayes said a common statement of aims from the Coalition in areas such as taxation, childcare and health reform would illustrate the priorities for a second term. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Fine Gael strategist rules out joint manifesto with Labour ahead of general election

Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton: will lay a wreath during the commemoration ceremony honouring Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith. Photograph: Sara Freund

Ceremony commemorating their lives to be held in Glasnevin Cemetery this weekend

Brian Hayes: “campaigns have their own dynamic”, with significant shifts taking place in the final week to 10 days

Strategist Hayes says statement could be released just a month from polling day

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