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What will moving the budget forward do for the cost-of-living crisis?

Inside Politics: Move gives backbone to Government’s argument that it takes people’s struggles seriously, without giving Opposition a win


Good morning,

So, another development in the saga of Budget 2023 – and it’s not even July. As we report this morning, with relentless pressure over the cost of living dominating the political agenda, the Government is now considering bringing the budget forward. Sources across the Coalition yesterday confirmed the move was being eyed – while cautioning that no decisions have yet been made.

It does seem that something has to give. Since the pushback against an interim package of measures last week, a long, difficult summer stretched out in front of the Government as the Opposition laid into them on the cost of living.

The phrase “eaten bread is soon forgotten” was never so true, with hundreds of millions in cost-of-living measures already rolled out this year, but deemed insufficient. The Government doesn’t want to move early with interim measures, lest it seem like it has conceded to calls for an emergency budget. But is it sustainable to do nothing? An earlier budget allows the Coalition to move more quickly while sticking to its commitment not to chase inflation and to wait until budget day.

Arguably moving it forward is not a particularly substantial gesture, but it would give backbone to the Coalition’s argument that it takes peoples’ struggles seriously, without giving the Opposition a win. It would also bring the sugar rush of the “Big Bang budget” forward – while simultaneously increasing the pressure even more so, if that’s possible, for it to be a really meaningful intervention. Most of the chat yesterday seemed to focus on a date in late September, meaning all the work of the budget would now have to be done in a tighter window for a few weeks’ gain. We are reliably informed that officials have been quietly cursing the enterprise of their ministers around town.

The lead, with more detail, is here.

Elsewhere, the permutations on the future size of the Dáil firmed up a little bit last night, with Darragh O’Brien telling the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting that the next one will have a minimum of 171 and a “possible maximum” of 181 TDs once the results of the census are accounted for.

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Playbook

Leaders’ Questions is from midday in the Dáil before questions on policy or legislation. The second stage of the Mica Remediation Bill is happening at 1.44pm. There’s a motion at 7.30pm on a report from the Public Accounts Committee, published last year, on the finances of the company building the Children’s Hospital. The Dáil adjourns at 8.45pm.

The full schedule is here.

Friday will see an extra Dáil session as the Government seeks to motor through legislation before the recess.

The Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill will get its second stage outing, as will special needs legislation, fast-tracking the process to force schools to take in pupils, and legislation underpinning Stephen Donnelly’s move to suspend some hospital charges.

Friday’s schedule is here.

Over at the committees, the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on gender equality will be considered by the committee of the same name at 9am. The Public Accounts Committee meets at 9.30am to examine the international co-operation vote, and the foreign affairs committee meets Simon Coveney to discuss service by the Defence Forces with the United Nations in 2020 and 2021. That’s at 1.30pm, followed by another session with Coveney an hour later on Ireland’s participation in four Permanent Structured Co-operation (PESCO) projects.

The Good Friday committee resumes its sessions with “architects of the Good Friday agreement”, meeting with Jonathan Powell, chief of staff in Tony Blair’s Number 10 at the time the agreement was signed.

The transport committee will hear from the Garda, the Medical Bureau of Road Safety and representatives from the Road Safety Authority on the Government’s Road Safety Strategy. That’s at 5.30pm.

The full committee schedule is here.

The Seanad meets at 9.30am for the committee stage of the Circular Economy Bill. It will also focus on the Regulation of Building Works and Building Control Bill at 1.15pm, and the committee stage of the Electoral Reform Bill at 1.45pm