With general election talk in the air, the pressure grows on Donohoe to spend

Opening the Government’s coffers further in the jaws of a possible no-deal Brexit would be very unwise

 Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe: he faces a difficult job in presenting the Summer Economic Statement next month.  Photograph: Alan Betson

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe: he faces a difficult job in presenting the Summer Economic Statement next month. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Record job-creation and strong economic growth would normally give a boost to the party in power. Yet Fine Gael had a bit of a disappointing election, certainly in terms of overall support levels. In Dublin, in particular, it seems to have lost some of its traditional support.

Housing is certainly part of the story here. While house -building is finally starting to pick up, the party has been slow to deliver, and has failed to set out a convincing strategy. There can be little doubt that this hit its electoral performance.

However, do voters also have wider questions over economic management? Fine Gael was reportedly content that rural Ireland would reward it for the broadband plan. But for many it may have added to concerns about management of the public finances.

Coming after the controversy over the national children’s hospital and the constant large overruns in health spending, it chipped away at the Government’s credibility as a manager of the public finances.

For a party that got elected on the narrative that Fianna Fáil had loosened the purse strings and ruined the country, this is tricky territory.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe faces a difficult job in presenting the Summer Economic Statement next month, which is the first real outline of the budget arithmetic, and the Government’s political intentions for it.

On one hand the Government has ground to make up in persuading voters about it claims to be prudent.

On the other cash is still rolling into the exchequer, and, as we heard over the weekend, talk of a general election is in the air. The pressure to spend more – on housing, health and elsewhere – will be immense. But opening the coffers further in the jaws of a possible no-deal Brexit would be really unwise.

It will make for very tricky pre-budget discussions between Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Independents – all assuming, of course, that we haven’t all headed off to the polls before the budget is due to be presented.

Only the imminence of the new Brexit date in October may keep the show on the road.

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