Good morning. The Government is going through a most unusual flurry of good news. Last weekend it was the end of pandemic restrictions; today it is the economy.
The Central Bank publishes its quarterly bulletin today and predicts a remarkable bounceback for the economy after the pandemic. It says that the economy is likely to grow by a whopping 8.7 per cent this year (Celtic Tiger comparison alert) and by another 5 per cent next year. One of the key drivers of this will be strong domestic demand, the Bank says, supported by income growth, the use of savings built up during the pandemic and strong exports.
The effects will be dramatic: there will be a more rapid reduction in unemployment than previously anticipated and a return to full employment by 2024. Unemployment, now at 7 per cent, is expected to fall to 5.3 per cent next year and to 4.9 per cent in 2024. The transformed economic outlook is also expected to translate into higher tax receipts for the Government and improved public finances, with Paschal Donohoe in a position to run a small budget surplus next year.
This would not only be an astonishing turnaround, it would be a vindication of the economic strategy followed since the pandemic began. Supporting businesses and workers was expensive but it seems to have maintained the structures in place that will enable things to take off like a rocket now. Rapid growth will bring its own complications – inflation, demands for more public spending, especially on public sector wages, and so on. But it's sure better than the opposite. Our lead story is here.
However, our editorial warns that inflation may be "more than just a blip".
Elsewhere, the threat of war in Ukraine and its potential consequences take much attention this morning. Jack Horgan-Jones reports that the Cabinet was warned yesterday about the fallout for Ireland if the European Union and the United States impose sanctions – as they have promised they will – on Russia in the wake of any invasion of Ukrainian territory.
The aircraft leasing sector and financial services could be hit badly, Ministers were told, while Moneypoint power station is reliant on deliveries of coal from Russia.
In the Dáil, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that travel advice had been updated to warn Irish citizens against any non-essential travel to Ukraine. Preparations for military action continue on both sides, though so does diplomacy. Officials from France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine are due to meet today, while French president Emmanuel Macron will speak to Vladimir Putin on Friday, Daniel McLaughlin reports from Ukraine.
Today is the day that Boris Johnson may learn his fate, with the expected – though unconfirmed – publication of the report into Downing Street lockdown parties (so many of them!) by Sue Gray, the senior civil servant charged with investigating the controversy. What can be said of this farce, except that it must be as excruciating for British people who care about their standing in the world as it is entertaining for the rest of us?
Yesterday saw the Metropolitan Police announce they were now investigating the parties, while a Conservative junior minister (one of the very few who could be found to come before a camera) pleaded that Boris had been "ambushed" by the birthday cake. Honestly. You can imagine how that one played out on Twitter. Denis Staunton's report here and analysis here.
Cormac McQuinn with the latest on the Government's work from home plans.
Sinn Féin TD Claire Kerrane rejects recent criticisms of the party's democratic credentials.
A Health Service Executive report into inappropriate prescription of medication for young people with mental health difficulties in Kerry is to be published today.
Miriam Lord is underwhelmed by the Dáil's big day back.
As the pandemic recedes from daily life and therefore as a political issue, other issues will crowd in to take its place. Today it will be housing, as the Government launches its progress report on the "Housing for All" plan. The three Coalition party leaders will join Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien this afternoon for the event.
It's a long day in the Dáil, where business gets under way shortly after 9am and continues until the week's votes are concluded at about 11pm. There's a Labour Party motion on the cost of living (Alan Kelly was good on the subject at Leaders' Questions yesterday) this morning and then today's Leaders' Questions at noon.
Statements on the European Council and Taoiseach's questions in the afternoon, followed by three pieces of Government legislation in the evening. Votes start at 10.30pm.
There are debates on broadband and Brexit in the Seanad, while there's a stellar array of witnesses appearing at committees throughout the day. They include the IDA at the enterprise committee, the Irish Medical Council and Irish College of General Practitioners at the health committee, Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath at the European affairs committee, RTÉ at the culture and arts committee, Green leader and Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan at the transport committee, Paschal Donohoe at the finance committee and think-tankers from the Nevin Institute and Social Justice Ireland at the budgetary oversight committee.
Who could possibly keep track of all this for you? Step forward irishtimes.com. But if you want to do it yourself, there's a full list of all Oireachtas business here. And we will keep an eye on Westminster, if only for the laughs.