Budget of bits and bobs fails to outrage or astound
Miriam Lord: Taoiseach seemed to drift off as his Ministers kept droning on
Enda, meanwhile, was having difficulty keeping his eyes open. More than once he seemed to drift off as his Ministers droned on.
Michael McGrath was the man with the most difficult job in the Dáil yesterday. He was first up to reply and he wasn’t happy. On the cusp of recovery? “It’s too early to draw on any definitive conclusion,” he sniffed.
The contents of Budget 2014 had been comprehensively leaked to the media in the final run-up, so he had enough ammunition to work up a nice head of steam.
The Opposition’s main line of attack became immediately clear – it was the cuts to pensioners’ medical cards and telephone allowance. Fianna Fáil, in particular, know from recent experience that it’s a brave government that messes with the pensioners.
As soon as Noonan and Howlin had spoken, the Government benches cleared. By the time Seán Fleming took up the baton from McGrath, the front bench was deserted, save for the Taoiseach and Tánaiste. The Ministers had gone to do interviews.
“The media is more important than the national parliament,” huffed Seán. But he had a point. The deserted benches opposite him were the height of disrespect.
Sinn Féin further exploited what looked to be the weak seam among the bits and bobs of the budget – the pensioners. Not only were they taking their phones, fulminated Pearse Doherty, but they were making sure they couldn’t ring up to complain.
In the corridors, Government backbenchers felt there was enough give and take in the budget for them to sell it. The banana skin, they reckoned, might be in the removal of the telephone allowance for pensioners who depend on landlines for their personal alarms. But overall there was none of the hysteria that had accompanied recent budgets.
And on Kildare Street, where hordes of gardaí cooled their heels and waited for trouble, a mere handful of protesters astounded them with their outrage and gave them a easy day.