Charlie McCreevy delivers Budget 2004 RTÉ / screengrab
Time warp

So, here's what definitely won't be in Budget 2014...

Let’s take a nostalgic* look back at what Charlie McCreevy had in store for us ten years ago. We all partied. Apparently.

ALTHOUGH WE DON’T know exactly what’s in store for us on Tuesday afternoon when Michael Noonan rises to deliver Budget 2014 — we do know for certain it’s going to be far from pretty.

“The final big effort” is how the Finance Minister is describing it; Enda Kenny sees it as “the last of the really tough ones”.  But even after confirmation that the package will be “somewhere north of €2.5 billion” instead of the feared €3.1 billion, nobody’s expecting to be considerably richer come January 1st 2014.

However — believe it or not, there was a time, not long ago, when people looked forward to the Budget.

Alright, perhaps that’s over-egging it a little; it was certainly the case that for large swathes of the population, the annual announcement would whistle by unheeded — people only noticing its effects after opening their next pay packet and discovering all those extra zeroes.

So, for no particular reason — other than to make us a little nauseous (and perhaps also because news organisations just love anniversaries) — has been taking a look back at Budget 2004.

‘Steady as she goes’

Regarded by one expert as a mere “steady as she goes” affair — the majority of the Budget measures announced by Charlie McCreevy on 3 December 2003 were overshadowed by his announcement that thousands of Dublin-based civil servants would be redeployed around the country as part of the controversial (and, ultimately ill-fated) ‘decentralisation’ programme.

But further down the list, what was in store for the average worker?

Well, pretty good news it turns out (in the short term at least). Employee tax credits were raised from €240 to €1,040 a year — resulting in almost 40 thousand people being removed from the tax net entirely.

For those between (construction) jobs, another comparative windfall — €630 million extra for social welfare recipients, with all personal payments going up by €10 a week.

On top of that — a rise in Child Benefit by €6 per month for the first and second children, and by €8 for each subsequent child.

And for the good of the country at large —  an extra €30 million in funding for local authorities, with the same amount allocated for school building programmes.

And remember — decentralisation aside, this wasn’t a particularly stand-out package from the Fianna Fáil minister’s seven year tenure; remember the 2000 ‘Giveaway Budget’?

‘No shocks’

It would be the last of the McCreevy budgets before he headed off the Europe to become Commissioner, and he commended it to the Dáil promising “more growth,” “more jobs” and “better public services” — given, of course that there would be “no major external shocks“.

Brian Cowen took over as Finance Minister the following year of course, and — well, this isn’t history class; let’s just say they all lived happily ever after.


Protesters demonstrate against the troika bailout in November 2010 [Photocall]

*Nostalgia, admittedly, is not the correct term. Fortunately, the Germans have a noun that might fit the bill:

Sehnsucht (n) A concept that represents thoughts and feelings about all facets of life that are unfinished or imperfect, paired with a yearning for ideal alternative experiences.

Thanks again, Germany!

Read: 30 Days in September: An Oral History of the Bank Guarantee

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