It’s the biggest set piece of the year in Irish politics, the one day of the political calendar when (Covid-19 allowing) the Dáil chamber is full to the brim.
No matter how much the body politic is bludgeoned, budget day remains special.
There are some years in which the budgets are unremarkable but, then again, there are some years in which the budgets are just bloody remarkable.
In modern times none can really touch (for drama) Charlie McCreevy’s announcement of decentralisation in December 2003. In these days of waterfall-size leaks, it’s hard to imagine it was all kept tight until the Kildare man stood up in the Dáil and announced it.
If it was to be done today, people would nod all round and say that’s a sensible enough proposal. But back then the notion of tens of thousands of public servants making an exodus from Dublin to the provinces was unfathomable and unthinkable
In between we have had massive electoral giveaway budgets (2007, for example) and some awful austere hair-shirt budgets (pick any year between 2009 and 2014).
The focus of spending has gone from financial survival to health to housing. After Covid-19, all those three elements are there - the Government needs to succeed in getting people back to work; ensuring the health system is fit for purpose; and getting on top of the housing crisis.
And so today’s budget - already comprehensively leaked - will not be an election giveaway budget but nor will it be an austerity budget. There will be plenty of spending – a €5-across-the-board increase for social welfare recipients; the guarantee of the Christmas bonus; an increase of €5 in fuel allowance, as well as tax breaks for low-, and middle-income earners. There won’t be a decrease in the percentage per se - the bands will be widened so that the marginal tax rate will kick in at a higher income level.
There will be some taketh-away, however. The increase in carbon tax by €7.50 a tonne will mean further increase in fuel costs, which have already risen dramatically this year. The fuel issue will be a difficult one for the Government this winter, especially if the weather turns cold.
That’s why the fuel allowance is being increased so markedly to try and cut that one off at the pass. I suspect that energy and fuel (especially prices) will become core issues in Irish politics as the unpopular impacts of climate change policy.
The Government has potentially a bit more wiggle room than it had envisaged in terms of general spending. The deficit will be €13 billion (which is big), but it is €7 billion less than what was being predicted during the summer.
About €1.5 billion of the €5 billion package of additional spending will be new, although most of it has already been committed to cover demographic changes and public service pay deals.
About €1 billion of it will be expenditure, with the remaining €500 million being given in tax breaks.
Unsurprisingly, The Irish Times leads with the budget this morning.
Elsewhere, Jennifer Bray has a very useful guide to everything we know about the budget at this moment in time.
And here is Conn Ó Mídheach’s explanation as to how the Irish Times will cover the budget today.
How will events unfold today?
Well, it’s going to be a long day. The business of the Dáil will be given over totally to the budget. At 1pm, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe will stand to give his budget speech.
He will be followed by Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath. There then will be speeches from a series of Opposition spokespeople starting off with the main opposition party, Sinn Féin and its spokespeople Pearse Doherty and Mairéad Farrell. That will take us through to 8pm.
At 8.30pm, the debates will begin on the financial resolutions, those Budget decisions that have to be approved by the Oireachtas on the day of the budget. They typically cover changes such as customs and excise (such as the expected 50c hike on a packet of cigarettes) and other changes that need to be implemented immediately.
There have been occasions in the past where Government TDs have gone overboard because of an unpopular new charge, or duty or tax. We don’t expect to see any defections tonight.
At one minute to midnight, the Dáil will begin to vote on the resolutions with events finally coming to an end at 12.30am.
Meanwhile, there are five different Ministerial press conferences taking place in Government buildings during the day.
Leo Varadkar’s at Enterprise will be the first at 3pm; then it’s Eamon Ryan with Environment and Climate Change at 4.15pm; then Heather Humphreys will run through all the social welfare changes at 5pm.
After that, it’s Darragh O’Brien’s turn at 6pm (look for what’s been announced in relation to Mica), with the final conference starting at 7pm. That will be the main one as it will feature the two Ministers responsible for the budget, Donohoe and McGrath.
A further five departmental press conferences will take place on Wednesday.
Martin Wall reports that Laura Magahy will not be appearing before the Oireachtas Health Committee to set out why she stepped away from Sláintecare.
Martin Wall also reports that the HSE has warned that a return to pre 2010 hours for the public service could lose it the equivalent of 1,700 nursing jobs.
Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien insists that long-term leasing for social housing is being phased out after financier Dermot Desmond criticises the policy: