Budget day: how it all unfolds

Each year’s cocktail of taxes, cuts and spending conforms to the same narrative

 Minister for Finance Michael Noonan unveiling his budget four years ago: today at 1pm he will outline the fiscal and economic position, the central message of the budget and the taxation measures. His speech is expected to last about 45 minutes. Photograph: Eric Luke

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan unveiling his budget four years ago: today at 1pm he will outline the fiscal and economic position, the central message of the budget and the taxation measures. His speech is expected to last about 45 minutes. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Budget day is one of the big political set-pieces of the year – only an election is bigger – and politicians and officials will be at their desks early this morning in anticipation of the day ahead.

Some of them were there late last night. Government sources said some details on the spending side of today’s package were being ironed out yesterday evening, but all exhibited a high degree of confidence the budget would be agreed in advance of this morning’s deadline.

Officials need some hours to produce the budget books, including worked-out examples of how budget measures affect individuals, that are distributed to TDs and published online when the budget is revealed in the Dáil.

Fine Gael Ministers meet in Government Buildings before the Cabinet meets at 10.15am to be briefed by Ministers for Finance and Public Expenditure Michael Noonan and Paschal Donohoe, and to formally approve the package of measures.

The Dáil sits at the earlier time of 1pm, when Mr Noonan will outline the fiscal and economic position, the central message of the budget and the taxation measures. His speech is expected to last about 45 minutes.

Frantic updates

Opposition finance spokesmen will be working frantically throughout the Ministers’ speeches, as they will be called up afterwards to respond. They will receive constant updates from research offices which will feed into their speeches.

The rest of the day will be taken up in the Dáil with debate on the budget measures, culminating in votes on any excise duties tomorrow night – the first budget test of the Government’s majority. It is expected there will be an increase in tax on cigarettes, but not alcohol. Assuming the vote is passed, and the Government will be pitched into immediate crisis if it is not, the tax increases will take effect at midnight tonight, when the Dáil is scheduled to adjourn.

News agenda

A series of briefings by Ministers will take place throughout the afternoon in Government Buildings, culminating in the budget press conference with Mr Noonan and Mr Donohoe at 7pm. Ministers will also be despatched to radio and television studios to promote the budget in a bid to dominate the news agenda for the day. The Taoiseach is likely to appear on the evening television news on RTÉ.

Opposition spokesmen and spokeswomen will seek to disrupt the Government narrative, while their backroom researchers pore over the budget seeking to find landmines, an unforeseen effect, a hidden cut, etc, that might upset the Government’s carefully laid plans and turn public opinion against the budget.