'It was very hard to get by before, now it's harder'


As the Budget cuts hit the headlines, shoppers spare a moment to share their feelings, writes ROSITA BOLAND

“WE MET for a long lunch, and we’ve just been buying basics,” says one of two female friends shopping in Brown Thomas half an hour before the Budget is due to be delivered.

The basics in their Brown Thomas bags, are, respectively, Christmas-themed serviettes and two pairs of 300 thread count pillowcases. Neither wants to give her name. “Because my husband employs over 100 people,” explains one. “He’s in the equine business, as a trainer.”

Across town, at the euro shop on Liffey Street, Lots4Less, there is a hand-written sign at the register declaring, “We only accept cash.”

According to employee Kim Egan, their best-selling item is the €2 chocolate Santa. Egan is on the minimum wage.

“It was very hard to get by before, and now it’s harder. Lots of my friends are on social welfare. People are getting next to nothing at the moment as it is. They all want to go out this time of the year and there’s no spare money.”

Adrienne McDonnell, who is expecting her second child in January, is taking a rest on a bench in the Jervis shopping centre. “How will the cuts affect me? Where do I begin?” the former chef says wryly.

Two years ago, she had a €70,000 wedding at Carton House in Co Kildare, and McDonnell and her husband bought a house in Ringsend for €420,000. They remortgaged it soon after “to pay for new doors and windows”, and bought a new jeep, which then got hit with VRT.

Since then, her husband has lost his job as a high-reach crane driver, and neither of them has been working for over a year.

“We lived beyond our means,” she admits. “We should have known things would change. Now we are on the complete other end of the scale to where we were two years ago. I don’t know what will happen next for us. I feel sick today when I see stamp duty has gone. That’s money we paid out we won’t see again.”

Harry Croxon, a public servant, is on his way to buy his wife a Christmas gift in the Jervis centre. “I have had a 50 per cent drop in my salary since 2007,” he reports.

“But the way I see this budget is, I’m lucky to have no debt. Our house is paid off and from that point of view, we are calm. My generation is probably all right.

“But I have a daughter who is trying to establish herself as a primary school teacher and a son just back from Australia who is unemployed. The Budget is going to be hardest on people with debt, and of the generation coming after me.”

Virtually no shoppers are stopping to watch live coverage of the Budget on a Sky screen in the Ilac Centre. One who does is public servant Susan Deary from Monaghan, in Dublin for the day.

“Our family will be paying more college fees and more taxes,” she says. “This Budget will be difficult for people with no savings. But despite the cuts, I think social welfare recipients here are pretty well paid compared to Northern Ireland.”

Sheltering out of the icy wind in the Ilac Centre outside HM, a man who offers only his Christian name of Ian, is angry that his jobseeker’s allowance has been cut by €8 a week.

“Why didn’t they tax cigarettes and alcohol in the budget?” he asks. “They are luxuries. You don’t need to smoke or drink, but you need to eat. That would have helped raise money to keep allowances for people like me.”

Ian says all the clothes he is wearing, bar his boots, were bought in the charity shop in which he volunteers four afternoons a week. How will a cut of €8 a week make a difference to him? “I’ll walk instead of getting the bus.” Ian is on crutches.