An autumn and winter of discontent may beckon after Government returns

What’s on the agenda for the first Cabinet meeting after the holidays?

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Joan Burton: have developed a respectful working relationship. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Joan Burton: have developed a respectful working relationship. Photograph: Aidan Crawley


The tone of negotiations ahead of the upcoming budget will be the acid test of the fledgling partnership between Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Joan Burton.

The Fine Gael and Labour Party leaders, and their respective teams, have developed a respectful working relationship since Ms Burton became Tánaiste in July.

Senior Ministers are now preparing for the first Cabinet meeting since the summer recess on Wednesday, with management of the public finances expected to top the agenda until budget day on October 14th.

There are indications of some concern at Government level that expectations were raised a little too high over the summer months, with a succession of Ministers making hopeful noises about tax reductions and possibly even pay increases.

The public can expect a shift in emphasis as the autumn political season resumes. Responsibility and sustainability will be the key themes in Ministers’ public pronouncements.

“Enormous sacrifices have been made and a way must be found based on any flexibility that emerges in the figures to assist those who pay for everything,” a Government spokesman said yesterday.

“Both the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance have referred to looking at where people begin to pay the top rate of tax. But we need to be clear about something: this Government will take no step that puts the current ongoing recovery in jeopardy.”

While getting the budget over the line will be the main priority in this Dáil session, the always-contentious issue of abortion re-emerged over the summer and remains politically sensitive.

Ministerial colleagues are expecting Minister for Health Leo Varadkar to provide an update on the HSE review that has been ordered into the case of a young woman refused an abortion who later had her pregnancy delivered by Caesarean section.

The extent of the information that will be available to him by next Wednesday is not yet clear, however.

Meanwhile, an autumn and perhaps winter of discontent appear to beckon on the transport front.

With Iarnród Éireann unions preparing for further industrial action next month over the introduction of temporary pay cuts, Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe may brief colleagues.

Housing and planning legislation is on the horizon, with an emphasis on improving availability and affordability expected.

There will be a renewed Government focus on Northern Ireland, with Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan keen to make his mark as part of the Government’s stated commitment to protect and enhance peace.

With the Dáil resuming on September 17th, the Cabinet will shortly approve the autumn session’s legislative programme, which is being worked on at present.