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IT Sunday: A tale of two budgets

Fintan O’Toole examines the possible impacts of the NI census results; Ken Early argues the Ireland team are still on the right track


Welcome to this week’s IT Sunday, a selection of the best Irish Times journalism for our subscribers.

It was a week that saw a tale of two budgets, with an unprecedented €11 billion package announced in Dublin for Budget 2023 on Tuesday and a mini-budget in London that sparked turmoil in markets and caused the pound to plunge amid concerns over its big tax cuts and reliance on borrowing.

In his column this weekend, David McWilliams looks at what Ireland – and the UK – could learn from Konrad “no experiments” Adenauer. The first chancellor of postwar West Germany understood that government must be taken seriously; it is not a laboratory for politicians to “try out” notions. From 1949 onwards, Adenauer’s Germany would be predictable, solid, boring, committed to slow, methodical progress. A steady ship is a happy ship. “Contrast this with the creed of the newest incarnation of the Tory leadership, the more radical model in a fitful product line of oddballs,” writes McWilliams. “Which manager is more likely to see out Christmas: Liz Truss or Leicester City’s Brendan Rodgers? Place your bets.”

Speaking of football, it was a week that also saw the continuation of debate over the direction of the Republic of Ireland men’s team, after a dramatic last-minute 3-2 victory over Armenia in the Nations League that raised as many questions as it answered. Following the match, Ken Early argued that the Ireland team were still on the right track despite some bad results. “It’s a football truism that results are everything, but it’s more accurate to say that the direction is everything,” he writes. “What really matters is the sense of whether things are getting better – or worse. Results are part of it but they are not the whole story.” Read his full analysis here.

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In his column this week, Fintan O’Toole examined the recently released results of the Northern Ireland census, and what they might mean for the issue of Irish unity. He writes that, while the big story of the census was the confirmation that those from a Catholic background now outnumber cultural Protestants, in Northern Ireland religion is not quite the same thing as politics. He also notes how “the census shows that well over one-third of people in Northern Ireland identify either as Northern Irish only or as Northern Irish with some combination of Irish and British”, adding that the rise of this Northern Irish identity has “profound implications” for the question of a united Ireland. Read his full column here.

In the latest Tell Me About It, Trish Murphy advises a reader who is concerned about the lifestyle of their husband, who has recently recovered from a heart attack. The reader says their husband “has been obese for more than 20 years, his diet is very unhealthy, and he eats two dinners each day ... He eats a fried breakfast a couple of mornings a week, he smokes and drinks a couple of pints each night, and he works at least 60 hours a week.” Despite his recent health incident, the husband “has absolutely no intention of changing any aspect of his lifestyle”. The reader adds: “I am terrified that I will lose him and that his arrogance will deprive me of a husband.” Read Trish’s advice in full here.

Meanwhile, belts are tightening at Google. At a recent all-hands with chief executive Sundar Pichai, “one particular area of employee angst” was “aggressive cost-saving” surrounding travel expenses and swag. Jennifer O’Connell isn’t impressed by the whinging of spoilt tech workers whose 2019 median salaries were somewhere between €264,000 and €280,000. “Everyone has their cross to bear,” she writes. “But at a time when older people are sitting in the cold afraid to turn on their heating, when the young are reckoning with the prospect they’ll never be able to afford a home, when we’ve swapped global Covid trackers for inflation trackers, when Russian president Vladimir Putin is threatening nuclear war... the notion that entitled tech workers are cribbing about free snacks sticks in the craw a bit.”

The aforementioned economic disorder in the UK triggered by the mini-budget of the new Liz Truss government was the subject of Newton Emerson’s column this week. He writes that the move was an event that would define British politics for years to come, with unavoidable effects on Ireland, including on the current impasse over the post-Brexit Northern Ireland protocol and forming a government in the North.

Emerson notes that the DUP’s calculations on returning to Stormont had been relying on Truss and her Bill to disapply the protocol being a credible negotiating tactic. However, the mini-budget fallout means she is now the latest British PM who could be gone in months, something which throws the unionist party’s plans into disarray. Read the full column here.

Back on the pitch, Malachy Clerkin writes this weekend about sport’s concussion problem. It’s still there. Despite all the studies, all the lawsuits, all the millions paid out with countless more in the post, we’re still at the point where players and coaches and doctors really don’t grasp the existential threat. The past week alone proves the point, Clerkin writes, and argues that, when it comes to concussion, sport needs more Johnny Gordons and fewer Bundee Akis.

Stephen Collins examined the disorder in the UK, and what Ireland could learn from it. He writes that the contrast between the budgets announced in London and Dublin over the past week highlighted the astonishing change in economic fortunes between the UK and the State since the last crash, noting that despite its effects this “change has been all about politics rather than economics”. He says that Irish voters should take heed of the UK turmoil and “realise change is not always for the better”, Read his full column here.

And in her sex and relationships column this weekend, Roe McDermott responds to a reader who says she is tired of faking orgasms and having rows with her partner about their sex life.

As always, there is much more on irishtimes.com, including the latest rundowns of all the latest movies in our film reviews, tips for the best restaurants in our food section and all the latest in sport. There are plenty more articles exclusively available for Irish Times subscribers here.

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