This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
OK
Dublin: 13 °C Thursday 18 July, 2019
Advertisement

Liveblog

69,019 Views 78 Comments
Share

FINANCE MINISTER Michael Noonan told reporters outside Leinster House this morning that the Budget will be “tough – but fair”. Taoiseach Enda Kenny said there would be “tough decisions in there”.

We get the idea – tough. TheJournal.ie brought you all the details of Budget 2014 as it affected you and your loved ones.

If you need a quick recap, take a trip over to our roundup of the key points of the announcements.

Or do want to delve into one subject more deeply? Here was some of our coverage:

Phew!

Good morning, folks.

It’s a gorgeous bright morning across the country according to Met Éireann’s satellites….

… but hang on, what’s that cloud?

Oh yes, welcome to Budget 2014 Day.

So what do we know so far?

Pensioners are likely to take a hit on medical cards and phone allowances – as are some recipients of social welfare payments (most likely those in their early 20s).

Finance Minister Michael Noonan gave one of the reporters a “we’ll see” and a bit of a smirk at the end of this video shot outside Leinster House this morning by our own Hugh O’Connell, when he was asked about whether excise duty on cigarettes and alcohol would be raised.

We’ll take that as a yes then.


via Hugh O’Connell/TheJournal.ie/Youtube

Meanwhile, prescription charges are also to increase – and on the flipside, free GP care for the under-fives has been confirmed.

Your liveblogger here – TheJournal.ie editor Susan Daly (*waves*) – also revealed this morning that the Department of Social Protection is to cut by €5 million the amount it hands over to the Department of Communications for free TV licences.

It’s not a cut that will be borne by recipients however – it will be borne by RTÉ. That is not going to be popular out in Montrose.

Here’s a question: If you are pro-children, does that mean you have to be anti-older people?

Er, no, says Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin. So the Budget will be “pro-families” but not “anti-pensioner”.

Again, Hugh O’Connell was down on the doorstep this morning to video the explanation:

Before we go further, if you are in an office and near the printer, you should do a solid for your colleagues and print out TheJournal.ie’s Budget Bingo 2014.

Thanks to our reporter Paul Hosford for such phrases as “the situation we inherited”, “export-led recovery” and “Noonan calls a year ‘two-twelve/thirteen/fourteen’”.

Click here to download your Budget Bingo cards in time for the 2.30pm announcement which we’ll be livestreaming at the top of this blog.

What do we think of the levy on the banks which was reported over the weekend?

It’s to raise €150m and is to be placed on banks that benefitted from the 2008 bank guarantee.

Back to the new levy, to be announced today during Noonan’s speech: Melanie Gavin in the comments section here argues that “any levy on banks will yet again be billed to us.” Interesting full comment from Melanie here.

As Michelle Hennessy reported early this morning, there are extra Garda units on duty around Leinster House today.

Do you think they are expecting a bit of trouble?

This was Taoiseach Enda Kenny arriving for the first Cabinet meeting this morning (there will be another at midday). Looks like he’s giving the uniforms a once-over:

The Lads and Lassies have a long day ahead of them:

Images: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

This just in from Daniel Dunne in the comments here. Cheers, Daniel. Very specific.

Back to the serious stuff.

We also know that there is to be a proposal to increase PRSI obligations for the self-employed. The Tax Institute wrote a strongly-worded letter about the implications of that for the self-employed, which you can read here.

And while some may welcome the bank levy, there is also going to be an increase on DIRT tax, ie, bigger taxes on any money you manage to save.

The jury is still out on whether the VAT rate for the hospitality sector will be raised back up from 9 per cent to 13.5 per cent. It’s costing the Government over €300m to support that cut in VAT rate every year and it was only ever meant to last for two years to give the sector a chance to create jobs. Problem is, says reps from that sector, cutting it now will put those new jobs in jeopardy.

What do you think?

Ooo. Distraction time.

RTÉ Archives have compiled a Vine video showing 14 ministers for finance in six seconds. “All men”, says the Vine. We didn’t say it, they did. Click to see it here.

The announcement of Budget 2014 is not the end of it. After the measures are declared by Messrs. Noonan and Howlin, they will have to be voted through the Dáil – our Political Editor Hugh O’Connell has been checking how worried the coalition parties are about further rebel TDs voting against the Finance Bill.

This is already a major topic of conversation this morning: the abolition of the Bereavement Grant.

This is the €850 that a family or individual receives to help meet the cost of a funeral. Most people would have been eligible for this grant – social welfare recipients and also people who had contributed a certain amount of PRSI to the State from working.

Now only those who are very hard-pressed and in receipt of certain social welfare payments will be able to apply for help with the cost of a funeral. These people will be able to apply for an Exceptional Needs Payment.

TheJournal.ie‘s News Editor Sinead O’Carroll has been looking at the abolition of the Bereavement Grant. In this article, she relates the angry reaction to the cut and a funeral director explains the impact on a family when a standard funeral can cost about €4,500.

The piece features this heartbreaking tweet from Áine Gannon:

So Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin are not happy.

Hugh O’Connell’s report on statements from the party just now can be read here.

FF’s Health spokesperson Billy Kelleher says free GP cards could come at the expense of others…


While Gerry Adams says the Budget is going to be “very unfair” and that “austerity rules”:

Videos via Hugh O’Connell/TheJournal.ie/Youtube

In case you want to plan your lunchtime (either to coincide with, or to avoid) the Budget 2014 announcement, this is what will happen:

2.30pm Michael Noonan announces his measures in the Dáil (we’ll run livestream on TheJournal.ie)

3.10pm Brendan Howlin takes the floor with his part of the Budget announcement

3.50pm The Dáil continues straight on with reaction from the opposition – Fianna Fáil/Sinn Féin/technical group – for a combined total of 60 minutes.

The Dáil is then suspended for half an hour so we can all go and lie down in a darkened room.

There will be press conferences with specific ministers all through the afternoon and late evening. TheJournal.ie will be keeping you up to date with all the extra info coming from those:

4.10pm Jobs & Enterprise

4.30pm Education & Skills

4.45pm Health

5pm Agriculture

5.30pm Social Protection

7pm Finance & Public Expenditure

The very talented Donal O’Keeffe is allowing us to bring you the fruits of his doodles for this morning:

And he got this one from his archives. Another fine mess, eh’?

Thanks Donal.

Another doom-laden report (and that’s not to say that it’s wrong) doing the rounds is that maternity benefits will be hit. They will be standardised across the board which could mean a cut of over €30 a week to many working mothers who are out on maternity leave.

We probably shouldn’t be telling you this because we figure if you’re *on* TheJournal.ie today, you *do* want to know what’s happening with Budget 2014. But if it all gets too much and you want to bow out of coverage of the cuts and taxes, but keep using the internet, our pals at DailyEdge.ie have come up with a ‘Guide to Blocking the Budget’.

Very handy. See it here.

As we mentioned, gardai are mounting extra units around Leinster House, Government buildings and the Department of Finance today.

But where do they take a break? Rather retro-looking Civil Defence-branded bus inside the grounds of Leinster House today:

Image: Hugh O’Connell

It looks like a calm before the storm outside Leinster House right now.


via Hugh O’Connell/TheJournal.ie/Youtube

The second Cabinet meeting – held at midday – is over and everyone has scattered for lunch before the 2.30pm announcement.

Interesting suggestion on RTÉ Radio 1′s News at One right now that there is a plan to recruit 1,000 new teachers across primary and special needs sectors.

Yes, while this is going on.

In Health, according to RTE Radio 1′s News at One, an interdepartmental committee is to work with the HSE to find €650m in savings next year.

That’s a massive amount and encompasses a €1,000 cap on tax relief and on the increase in prescription charges but there will be lots of other impact in the sector.

A stimulus package – according to RTÉ’s Brian Dowling – could be helpful for small businesses. An interesting feature might be a two-year tax break for a long-term unemployed person starting their own business.

The construction industry “won’t” get a tax relief, says Dowling, but he suggests there will be a new home renovation grant of up to €4,000 limited to registered contractors.

Mostly, the package seems to consist of lots of tweaks and it will be funded by the pensions and banks levy.

A mooted change to the one-parent family tax credit is not going to go down well.

Meanwhile, it’s heating up outside Leinster House:

Image: Nicky Ryan/TheJournal.ie

This poster (pictured by Sam Boal of Photocall Ireland behind this lady) has been catching the eye on Kildare Street today.

It shows the faces of Government ministers with the words ‘Austerity Kills’ written in red letters across their faces:

Hold it. Could there be a delay on the announcement if they don’t get Leo and co. out of the lift?

We presume this is linked to the big power cut across the Grafton Street area at the moment. Power at TheJournal.ie HQ went out for a flicker but it seems that the area between Grafton Street and South King Street were out for an hour.

Members of Cabinet seem to have a habit of getting stuck in lifts (or not wanting to come out, we’re not sure…)

Denise Carroll in the DailyEdge.ie comments section recalls this little incident from 2007 in which Willie O’Dea, Dermot Ahern and Brian Cowen were stuck in a lift together. Dermot Ahern said that he had previously been stuck in the same old lift with Bertie Ahern, Mary Harney and Michael McDowell.

And then there was this in February of this year. Squishy.

This just in from our Political Editor Hugh O’Connell:

Not just Gilmore, Shatter, O’Sullivan and Hogan in the lift with Varadkar but also Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe.

And there’s more. The Army had to be called in:

Not to teach you how to suck eggs, but press play on the livestream at the top of this liveblog now – we’re getting ready to begin the announcement.

The Dáil chamber is upstanding with a prayer from the Ceann Comhairle.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan begins his Budget 2014 announcement and straight in with a dig at Fianna Fáil for ‘ruining everything’ (paraphrase). The relating of the history of the past few years is pretty depressing.

Noonan is now speaking about reducing the interest rates and the national debt and job creation – all of which he says is progress made by his Government which this Budget must now continue.

The deficit will be 4.8% in 2014 – €3.1bn adjustment with €2.5bn from expenditure, cuts, tax increases, as announced last week.

We are “well on course” to restoring our sovereignty, says Noonan.

While focus was on exiting bailout and troika programme for last few years, Noonan says there has been a parallel programme to get the country back to work. Cites farmer support measures, cut VAT rate for tourism sector, SME tax plan, support for financial sector, initiatives for recovery in housing market, and 12.5% corporate tax rate defended.

He is introducing €500m-worth of tax measures that are “pro-job” and “pro-business”.

Job creation measures:

Tourism – 9% VAT in hospitality sector is TO BE KEPT.

Tourism – Air Travel Tax to be reduced to zero, April 1, 2014.

Agri-food - Independent cost-benefit analysis will be undertaken in this areas to see what is working and what isn’t before making any decisions on tax there (puts it on to Budget 2015).

Extensions to VAT measures and CGT tax for longer-term leased farms – so that younger farmers get a chance to work the land and take over from older farmers who may want to retire. Maintaining stamp duty relief for ag property.

Construction sector – “No sector has been harder hit since 2008.”

Noonan wants to increase residential property as demand has grown…

Home Renovation incentive scheme – for works in 2014 and 2015 – calculated as 13.5% of cost over €5,000 to €30,000. To registered contractors (hitting out at black economy).

Rollout across country on living cities initiative to encourage people to live in historic city centres. (It was trialled in Limerick).

Addition of REIT investments to Emigrant Investor Programme announced last year.

On NAMA, it expects to have approved €2bn in funding for Irish projects between 2011 and 2015. It should construct 4,500 residential properties (including apts).

“We are 100 per cent committed to the 12.5% corporate tax rate.

But Ireland wants to be “part of the solution to a global tax challenge”. Noonan publishing a strategy and Ireland-registered companies cannot be stateless for tax purposes. Interesting for MNCs.

“Too many people see themselves as employees for life”.

Those are Nooonan’s words.

He wants to promote entrepreneurship – tax relief for those who reinvest profits from CGT on any gain of disposal of assets.

To encourage innovation – R&D tax credit – he is ordering a review.

New Start Your Own Business scheme to give two -year income tax break for long-term unemployed.

Encourage investors to invest up to €150,000 under equity scheme.

Shres transfers from ISEQ exempt from 1% duty.

Film Relief scheme coming to 2015, rather than 2016 – extension that will help film industry.

Cash-flow help for SMEs.

Magdalene Laundries - all compensation to be tax exempt for victims.

Seven measures to help Revenue tackle fraud, fuel and other laundering.

Reform of Appeals Commissioner is one – the rest will be on the Budget website.

Banking sector and credit unions.

European Investment Bank-supported finance trade initiative would help Irish businesses expand abroad.

SMEs can have further access to credit review processes and there will be two-day training programmes for SMEs off-site to help them improve their financial situation.

The banks have been set targets by Central Bank – but he wants homeowners and mortgage-arrears households to be able to move forward.

Financial targets

Deficit target for 2013 – 7.3%

For 2014 – 4.8%

For 2015 – 2.9%

GDP growth forecast of .2% this year strengthening next year

Celiings for exp for govt in 2015 will be €51.5bn

and €51.9bn in 2016  respectively

2014 – €52.9bn and €64.9bn in 2013

We have a “large stockpile” of cash apparently to meet its financial commitments up to early 2015 to help us exit the bailout.

Downward momentum of debt ration

120% at end 2014

118.4% at end 2015

114.6% at end 2016

Income tax measures -

Pensions - relief abolished entirely on ex-gratia lump sum payments

Medical insurance tax relief capped to €1,000 per adult and €500 per child

One parent tax credit – being replaced with Single Person Child Carer Tax Credit of equal value – but only available to the primary carer, rather than both single parents being able to claim the original creditl

Excise duty -

From tonight, midnight

10 cent on 20 cigarettes

10 cent on pint beer, cider or spirit

50 cent extra on 75cl bottle of wine

DIRT rate up to 41 per cent

And there is the Banks Levy of €150m – full details due in the Finance Bill.

Pensions - Standard Fund Threshold reduced from €2.3m to €2m and measures also to standardise payouts between those who retire early and others.

0.6% Pensions Levy to be abolished from 31 Dec 2014. But an addition of 0.15% Pensions Levy to be introduced to pension funds assets between 2014 and 2015.

Tax reliefs for high-income individuals:

Restrictions have been working, says Noonan (eg getting rid of stallion tax, capping artist tax relief etc).

No increase in income tax or to the USC in 2014

No increase in VAT rates in 2014

No increase on petrol, diesel, homeheating oil or gas

Noonan is hoping to have talks with the troika on the exit strategy from bailout after Budget 2014 is sorted. He is “confident” this will have happened and this “chapter” in the country turning to “lenders of last resort” will be over.

“Ireland will have been handed back her purse.”

There are still risks but Noonan believes Budget 2014 keeps us on the track to sustainability.

His Budget speech is done.

Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett is telling everyone not to be getting excited. Brendan Howlin is up now.

Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin is speaking now.

He says that we are committed to easing the burden on future generations and to “minimise the impact of austerity on the Irish people”.

“We made good on our commitments to the international community that has supported us.”

“Nobody is ideologically committed to austerity.”

Austerity, he says, is what is left when Fianna Fail left us beholden to outside appeals like “Famine victims of old”.

Oh. Oh.

His expenditure measures he is to announce will account for €1.6bn out of the €2.5bn consolidation.

Howlin is setting up a stark picture here, talking about the increase in medical card holders, those in education, population figures etc. since 2006.

In other words, more people to support – less money. What to do?

The October Budget should help the Govt examine spending plans “before the money is spent”.

He says reviewing expenditure now has to be ingrained in how the Govt formulates its expenditure strategy.

He acknowledges the contribution Public Service employees have made – 10% reduction in numbers; 17% drop in pay bill; Haddington Road will help that fall further. But we must “demand further efficiency” across all public service sectors.

Target for public service numbers has been adjusted for additional staff in education, policing and health.

Additional resources are a “reform dividend”. This new recruitment can be done while still reducing the pay bill by €500m, says Howlin.

An example from Howlin: Pilot phase for a new model of financing social interventions in Ireland. Uses private capital to provide long-term stable homes for homeless families in Dublin. “Radical, reforming” measure says Howlin.

Jobs -

€17.1bn investment programme between now and 2017 for infrastructure in the current strategy. He talks about additions to that, eg, PPP projects including DIT-Grangegorman project with 13,000 direct and indirect jobs to be created by this programme.

Extra Exchequer money, he says, is being invested in 28 school projects, local road network, local housing authority insulation project.

Govt now including social capital projects in education capital programmes to get long-term unemployed involved. A further €2bn to be invested in Irish commercial property through Nama (as Noonan said).

He also mentions National Lottery licence award for €400m+ – he reminds us that €200m of this is ringfenced to build the National Children’s Hospital.

The other €200m from the Lotto – to be invested in road maintenancel; sports capital grants; new indoor national training arena; better homes insulation; housing adaptation grants; City of Culture; new events centre in Cork; the Wild Atlantic Driving Route and 1916 projects.

He hopes to be able to announce more capital investment in Irish Water in 2014.

Housing –

Reminds us that they allocated €10m to Priory Hall residents. €10m will also be provided for an unfinished housing estate initiative.

The State’s housing building programme is to be recommenced- up to 500 additional housing units (both new builds but also sorting out some uninhabited units so they can be lived in)

Pathways to Work 2 – strategy for unemployment, especially long-term.

€1.6bn for work placements and training – 300,000 places in work, education and training. An increase of 18,000 places since 2012. 94,000 of the 300k places reserved for long-term unemployed.

€9m extended to one-stop shop Intreo services to help long-term unemployed

€100 reduced rate of Jobseeker’s allowance extended to those on it currently to age 18-22 and to age 24 for new entrants after 1 Jan 2014. €144 to those reaching 25 on that date.

€450m to Dept of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

Health services -

€13.3bn to Health in 2014. This is €187m more than the current published profile.

€37m to GP care for free for children aged 5 and under, as was confirmed yesterday.

€20m for community mental health services.

Reduced headcount services of 1,000 to protect frontline numbers.

Health is 27% of total expenditure so it has to pay up too, says Howlin (I’m obviously paraphrasing there).

Savings from:

€113m review of medical cards eligibility;

threshold for medical card reduced to €900 couple; €500 single person

€30m for private bed charges in hospitals

Social Protection -

40% of gross current expenditure so that’s going to take a hit

Household Benefits Package – no more telephone allowance from 1 Jan 2014

€230 standardised maternity benefit for new claimants in 2014

3 to 6 days wait for Illness benefit

No reduction to basic social welfare rates for unemployed or pensioners

No change to Child Benefit payments

No change to fuel allowances

Education -

No increase to post-primary or primary class sizes

1,250 places to be recruited for in classroom assistants and teachers

Extension to primary school book lending

New Garda recruitment scheme next year, as announced in Haddington Road Agreement.

Brendan Howlin says the goal is in sight, addresses a heckling Willie O’Dea and sits down.

Now, we have the one-hour reaction from the Opposition – from Fianna Fáíl and Sinn Féin and technical group speakers.

Michael McGrath, FF’s Finance spokesperson is first up.

Total adjustment since 2008 is over €30bn he says – he thinks it’s too early to say that the harsh measures are over with this particular Budget.

Fianna Fáil says there is “no easy way” to implement an adjustment of €2.5bn and he says the litmus test will be if the people of Ireland thinks it is fair.

He thinks disproportionate of adjustment today is going to hit those least able to pay – young mothers, the elderly, the young unemployed.

Pensioners have been targeted in a “disgraceful” way, says McGrath.

“Even the dead are not safe from this Government”  - he’s referring to the “decent burial” grant that has been abolished.

He asks what the Government has “against young mothers”, referring to the cuts in maternity benefits.

Meanwhile, TheJournal.ie‘s Nicky Ryan was filming outside Leinster House during the Budget 2014 announcement:

Michael McGrath, meanwhile, is saying that growth has not been on the level that Michael Noonan said it would when he first came into office. He is saying Noonan predicted 5.5% growth by now – now he’s saying 0.4%.

“The economy is about €5bn smaller than you said it would be when you came into office,” he says.

Although he does give credit for public finances – and welcomes reduction on deficit remains on target. Praise heavens.

Why haven’t the wealth had to give more to the nation’s efforts to recover, asks McGrath.

He also says the jobs figures are still disastrous and that the increase in employment isn’t enough. He hopes that recent figures – which he calls more encouraging – will foreshadow a “dent” in unemployment.

And he cites “forced emigration” as having a skewed impact on the Live Register figures. He claims the Government is actively encouraging people to emigrate, citing letters like this one highlighted on TheJournal.ie.

“This is hurting, lads,” interjects FF leader Micheál Martin to heckling backbenchers and ministers.

Michael McGrath talking about what is NOT mentioned in the Budget that is affecting businesses; rates hikes, collapse in property value; energy costs hikes etc.

He does welcome the increase in threshold of cash receipts as helpful to cash flow.

Overall, though, he says in construction and property stalemate is in huge factor to credit flowing to people who do actually want to buy for the first time.

Ireland’s corporation tax message should be kept united and strong, says McGrath. And we need to make the case to retain the corporate tax rate – let’s not be complacent about the “mutterings” we’ve heard from Germany about our corporate tax regime.

It does pose a real threat, he says.

Would you agree –  tell me in the comments. (I’m listening, I promise.)

Mention of those in mortgage arrears was just fleeting in the ministers’ speech, says McGrath.

  • The FULL TEXT of Finance Minister Michael Noonan’s speech is now online to be read. Should you wish. Click here.

The banks could at the very least show some “compassion”, some “civic-mindedness” in dealing with mortgage-arrears householders.

It makes more economic and social sense to keep people in the family home, he says. But the new insolvency bill doesn’t help those who can’t pay anything at all, he claims.

“No-one will be chaining themselves to the railings outside Leinster House tonight to protest against the banks levy,” says Michael McGrath.

“I wouldn’t rule out Deputy Boyd Barrett,” jokes Brendan Howlin from across the chamber.

Ah now.

Richard Boyd-Barrett TD protesting outside Leinster House after the Budget announcement last December. Image: Niall Carson/PA Archive.

The pension levy – is it going to end or increase, asks Michael McGrath? He says the booklet is contradicting Howlin’s speech.

FF saying that Noonan should consider taking a second line of credit if it meant making sure that Ireland can exit the bailout.

But again warns against complacency.

Sean Fleming, FF TD for Laois-Offaly is up now. He’s not believing the “family-friendly” Budget line.

He’s the party’s spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform, so is Howlin’s opposite number, so to speak.

In fairness to him, Fleming’s point that the devil is in the detail of the Budget is true.

(Mind you, it always is, no matter who is holding the Finance portfolio. Watch out for our updates later on the announcements from individual ministers in their separate press conferences.)

Fleming bringing up discretionary medical cards, an issue highlighted by TDs from many sides of the house last week.

He says there is a “clear” intention to reduce the number of medical cards “regardless of their healthcare needs”.

He also says the free GP care for under-5s is fine but that there are over-5s who are having medical cards taken off them when they really need them.

Minister of Finance and Minister of Public Expenditure and Reform have left the chamber, even though the Opposition are still speaking.

Sean Fleming says this shows that the media means more to them than reform of how things are down in the Dáil.

We’d probably beg to differ on how much politicians generally think of the media, Sean, but we’ll let you have that one. *insertswinkyface*

Report in from our Political Editor in Leinster House, Hugh O’Connell, says:

Early reaction here is a lot of concern among opposition TDs about where the savings from ‘medical card probity’ will be achieved. The government is targeting €113m but there is concern about the vagueness of this figure.

Fleming criticised the DIRT tax increase to 41% – people will be afraid to save, or will hold money in their homes which is obviously unsafe.

  • If you want to read the FULL TEXT of Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin’s speech, Click here.

The “old and disabled” are being targeted says Fleming. The abolishment of the telephone allowance is dangerous in the instance of older or less able people living alone.

“Shameful” is the treatment of the Government of these people, he says.

  • In a hurry? Sinead O’Carroll has been helpfully compiling the main points of the Budget 2014 announcement in this neatly-packaged article HERE.

“SIMPLY LOUSY”.

That’s Sean Fleming’s take on the abolishment of the Bereavement Grant.

There are a lot of people feeling that way, looking at the #Budget14 or #Budget2014 tags on Twitter and elsewhere.

From Hugh O’Connell at Leinster House:

At the moment there are just five government backbenchers in the chamber and just two ministers.

And more from Hugh O’Connell on who is listening to Opposition statements:

No Reform Alliance TDs present and just three from the Technical Group are in the chamber as opposition continue their statements.

By the looks of it, there are more of us on this liveblog listening in to the Opposition statements, than deputies in the Dáil.

Make yourself a cup of tea.

via riced0111/Tumblr

Fleming doesn’t know what the Government has against expectant mothers, young people emigrating, older people who will “be afraid in their homes tonight”.

Pearse Doherty, Finance spokesperson for Sinn Féin, has now started SF’s hour of commentary. He’s going to share the load with DF deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald.

Pearse Doherty has quoted September 1913, the WB Yeats protest poem about Romantic Ireland being dead and gone.

He’s using the “fumble in a greasy till” line. A lot.

From Hugh O’Connell at Leinster House:

Fianna Fáil’s jobs spokesperson Dara Calleary has just said “there’s some good stuff in there” but was very concerned, as are others, about the medical card probity and the suggestion it will raise €113m. He’s also pointed out that the case studies in the Department of Finance’s Budget document do not factor in the property tax next year.

“You don’t make €2.5bn of an adjustment like this without hurting people where it hurts,” says Doherty.

He says the Budget 2014 announcement is written by spin doctors and that the “devil is in the detail”. (See Sean Fleming for similar comment).

“You take the phone off old people so that they can’t ring up to complain,” says Doherty.

Those left on the Government benches resemble that remark: “Who wrote that line for you?”

But the Bereavement Grant cut again comes under fire. “It’s simply wrong, you know it’s wrong, your backbenchers know it’s wrong.”

Pearse Doherty mentions the property tax – he thinks that it should be abolished.

Here he’s getting into the SF alternative Budget here. You can read some of the proposals that were in that here.

Bi-lateral cochlear implants – time is running out for so many children who need them, says Pearse Doherty. There is definitely an issue there to be addressed – see this report by Aoife Barry.

Another omission today is the mortgage-holders in severe arrears, says Doherty.

Publicly-funded personal insolvency practitioners are needed, says Doherty. People have to pay for these services upfront and how can they if they are in such a dire situation to begin with?

Taoiseach is being asked by Doherty to justify the cuts to jobseekers’ allowance to under-25s  while not putting up a peep at Bank of Ireland chief’s Richie Boucher’s pay.

Bit of disruption there but he moves on.

By the way, Leas Ceann Comhairle Michael Kitt has taken over the head chair in the chamber and is trying to keep order so Pearse Doherty can finish his speech.

Doherty doesn’t feel the jobs strategies of the Government work. He says “press conferences and glossy reports” are the only outcome.

“Where spring is autumn, and our today is their tomorrow.”

Pearse Doherty on the scattering far abroad of Ireland’s younger generation.

Pearse Doherty a great deal more vehement in criticising the Budget than Fianna Fáil’s two speakers.

Mary Lou McDonald up next – will she be adopting the same tone?

She says the “constant refrain of fairness only undermines how unfair your government is”.

McDonald feels the Government lives in a world of “make-believe” and are self-praising where it is not deserved.

McDonald says that the Sinn Féin alternative budget proposals were effective and costed. She says that there were several measures that were possible – reversing the respite care cuts, not hiking up student capitation fees etc. – but the Government “set their face against it”.

She accuses the ministers of having a “real hang-up” about and against young people.

“That’s just ridiculous,” is a heckle aimed at McDonald as she suggests that perhaps the Government might like to pay young people’s taxi fares to the airport while they’re at it, such are the nudges towards emigration.

Meanwhile, interviewed on RTÉ Radio One, Lucinda Creighton believes the Budget could have been “more ambitious and imaginative”.

The Reform Alliance member said there is “a lot of work and tweaking” to be done in the coming days and weeks.

She expressed her disappointment at a lack of measures to tackle problems with illegal markets and fraud. She also said it was “regrettable” that the government missed an opportunity to introduce a lid tax on alcohol which would have a positive impact on public health.

If you were to think of one person who might be delighted by today’s Budget, can you think who would that be?

I’ll leave it with you for a moment while I dig a picture out of him.

Mary Lou McDonald, meanwhile, is pointing out that finding €666 million from the Health budget is going to cause massive hardship when the department is one that regularly exceeds its annual budget.

She derides Reilly’s justification of some medical card refusals to those who really need them as people who have “fallen through the cracks”.

The new Home Renovation Tax Incentive – announced earlier on as a boon to construction – is to apply only to contractors who sign up to a register.

This is a good thing, reps from the sector are saying: It cuts out the cowboys.

Read more from Rónán Duffy here.

McDonald making the link between the lack of early intervention in special needs and health services in the early life of children and an extra cost in the longterm in supporting those children in later lives.

It doesn’t make sense to pay less now, to pay more in the future.

This café across from Leinster House is always on the ball with their footpath blackboard:

Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

There goes the Taoiseach. He has exited the chamber while Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and Education Minister Ruairi Quinn (back from his own department’s press conference) continue to sit through Mary Lou McDonald’s speech.

German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble said today that “everything is fine in Ireland”, says McDonald. He said we would not need a recapitalisation of the banks.

It’s not fine, says McDonald.

Gilmore and Quinn’s response as she wraps up her speech:

The last hour of Opposition speeches is taken up by the Technical Group.

Mick Wallace is first up and he welcomes in particular the capital grants for sports facilities.

He also suggests – we think, jokingly, but perhaps not – says he could help build the new housing needed to supply demand.

Wallace is saying that he believes that the measures against those who can’t afford to pay for the banks’ mistakes are harsher than those against the people who can.

Austerity is “the socially-divisive path, the regressive path”, says Wallace. He says we should be following the example of some South American companies who increased social spending, strengthening regional structures and looking at debt cancellation and other measures.

The Statue of Bigotry – Lou Reed – is quoted by Mick Wallace. (It’s actually a song called Hold On.) He repeats the word ‘piss’ in the chamber but luckily for him, it’s the end of his speech so he escapes censure from the chair.

Clare Daly is second to speak from the Technical Group. She finds it an insult that the Government is talking about a “dependency culture” when they are in fact allowing the banks to depend on us, the taxpayers.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has now left the Dáil chamber.

Ruairi Quinn is getting the hairdryer treatment on his own. So to speak.

Clare Daly is saying that Howlin said nothing about the €8.5bn in interest we have to pay – and children are paying the price, she claims.

Job creation cannot be left to the private sector, Daly says as a parting shot.

Seamus Healy is speaking now, the third of the Technical Group.

Seamus Healy is wondering why there is no higher tax rate for the very top earners in the country.

“Because we know the wealthiest ten per cent of people in this country have increased their wealth and assets in this recession,” he claims.

Meanwhile, from Hugh O’Connell at the Health department briefing:

How the Department of Health will achieve €113 million in savings from ‘medical card probity’ was the question on everyone’s lips at the health briefing earlier but there were no clear answers.

Read his full report here.

Our colleagues at TheScore.ie have been looking at funding for Irish sport.

While there was a welcome from Mick Wallace for capital grants for building sports venues, the reality is that funding for sport overall has been rolled back to 2006 levels. Read this here.

Seamus Healy is scathing of Labour’s involvement in the Budget. Finds the “targeting of the sick and elderly” despicable.

Stephen Donnelly has stood up now to speak.

He is pointing out what we have been sporadically on this liveblog – that the Finance Minister, the Public Expenditure and Reform Minister, the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste have all left the chamber.

“No offence to Minister Quinn,” says Donnelly, but he didn’t expect he’d be only addressing his comments to him.

“We take collective responsibility for the Budget,” responds Quinn.

Donnelly doesn’t understand why the cuts to under 25 jobseekers is being justified as encouraging training and education. “If you are 26, training isn’t important?”

He also berates a second year of cutbacks to maternity benefits. No additional support to struggling mortgage holders. Older people, local business holders…. None of these people are going to feel supported by this Budget, Donnelly says.

Joan Collins is next to speak in the Dáil chamber, as part of the Technical Group.

She is pointing out the irony of reducing the air travel tax in April next year, just when Leaving Cert students and college students are getting ready for final exams – is the minister trying to encourage them to fly away she asks?

In case you haven’t seen it before, the new(ish) digital clock in the Dáil, seen behind Collins here, is the reason everyone is so conscious of their speaking time.

Can’t miss that.

She sees childcare, green energy industries, and other sectors are a good place to invest in jobs training but she doesn’t think the Government is really thinking that far.

“An attack on pregnant women”, the prescription charges are “absolutely scandalous” and she’s horrified at the chaos around discretionary medical cards.

Thomas Pringle is now speaking and he is particularly horrified by the Bereavement Grant.

Even those who might be eligible for an exceptional allowance to help pay for a funeral are forced to go argue their case in front of a welfare officer, he says.

Thomas Pringle feels €30m for housing is really a pittance to help those who need homes get them. And there is no respite for mortgage-holders in trouble.

Our Political Editor Hugh O’Connell is tweeting from the Social Protection presser right now:

Full report from him soon but you can see more from him here.

Richard Boyd Barrett is up to speak now from the Technical Group.

He says the Budget was “depressingly predictable” and that it attacks “the young, the old, the sick – especially the chronically sick – and the unemployed” while protecting the income of big multinationals.

Meanwhile, here’s James Reilly from the Health press conference – via our reporter Aoife Barry :

“At the moment the overrun will certainly be under €200 [million] possibly nearer €150 [million], however we have a couple of months left to run and no one can predict with any certainty what will happen over the next couple of months in terms of demands.”

Richard Boyd Barrett has personal experience of trying to get medical cards or help for the chronically ill – he has seen people left in pain because of “what you laughingly call probity”.

Quote from Boyd Barrett: “Joan Burton will now go down in the annals as the minister who left old people alone, frightened and isolated in their own homes when they need comfort and support the most.”

He also says that young people are being “pointed towards the door”. Argues that the cut to jobseekers’ allowance to under-25s IS a cut to core social welfare payments. Has he a point there do you think?

Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan isn’t bothered that most of the ministers are missing from the chamber for his speech because they don’t listen to him and the Technical Group anyway, he says.

He claims that it suits the government to have young people emigrate because it  makes their figures look better.

“If there was a tsunami in Galway, in two weeks ye would be claiming a reduction in unemployment in the western region,” he claims.

Flanagan also believes that the Government are hitting on young people because they are the ones that won’t vote. Well, DO vote, says Flanagan. Make sure you vote next time.

Whoops – of course, I didn’t mean the Government were “hitting on” young people. Just “hitting” them. Metaphorically, not literally.

The cost of living, upward-only rent reviews, rates are all stopping businesses setting up here, says Flanagan. The Competition Authority “is a joke” too he says.

He really, really believes young people have been “shafted” and that the minister wants the unemployed out of the country.

Catherine Murphy is now speaking from the Technical Group.

She says if we are to progress, we must acknowledge that the “mood music from Europe is not good” and that government debt must be tackled.

“What is our strategy for keeping our citizens well?” asks Murphy.

She’s saying the free GP care for under-5s is all well and good but gain for one group can’t be at the expense of another.

She also reckons that the cuts to the under-25s jobseekers’ allowance make a very “middle-class presumption” that they all live at home and have parents to support them. That being on the dole is a “choice” for everyone who is. What about young people just out of care, for example?

Meanwhile, Michael Noonan has popped up on RTÉ One’s Six-One news programme.

Still via RTÉ

He says the Health department “has become a kind of scapegoat department” and “we shouldn’t dump on the people providing health services”.

Regarding accusations that older people are being ‘targeted, he claims “We tried to look across sectors to see that too many measures don’t impact.”

Meanwhile, Catherine Murphy in the Dáil says that the cuts to many older people are unfair and she also asks if we will see a return to “paupers’ graves” because of the cut to that grant.

That is the end of the speeches from the Opposition in the Dáil this evening. (The official ones).

It’s taking a half-hour break now.

So are we. Later on tonight, we will be bringing the reaction of our Readers’ Panel on how Budget 2014 has affected them.

In the meantime, let’s just stare at this and let it all wash over us.

via gifrific.com

We’re not surprised at this particular reaction to one of the Budget 2014 measures: Funeral directors are going to seek a u-turn on the Bereavement Grant cut.

It is one of the smaller savings that has evoked some of the strongest reaction in today’s announcement.

By the way, alcohol is not the only type of beverage that was being watched for tax increases today.

The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland had been calling for a tax on fizzy drinks to help tackle childhood obesity. There was no provision for such a tax in today’s Budget announcement and Professor Donal O’Shea of the RCSI said it was a “missed opportunity”.

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton was rather coy at her press conference this evening about how she managed to secure a figure of €226 million – instead of a mooted €440 million – of expenditure cuts. That’s one of those “Budget secrets” she said.

She had more to say here in this Rónán Duffy piece.

If you are interested in debate on some provisions in Budget 2014 which need to be voted through the Dáil tonight (eg, the excise duty increases on alcohol and cigarettes), make sure to click on the livestream above.

There is an impetus to get these voted on and through so that they can take effect at midnight tonight.

There are protests being planned for outside the Oireachtas tomorrow morning and tomorrow evening in relation to cuts in social welfare for young jobseekers.

Dan O’Neill of The Young Workers’ Network and Fiona Dunkin of 1913 Unfinished Business have written an opinion piece for TheJournal.ie this evening calling the cuts “unjust and unacceptable”.

Here’s an extract, but you can read the whole thing by clicking here:

Our real confrontation here lies in the growing inequality in Irish society – the burden we have inherited from years of bad government and a fetish for free market; casino capitalism at the expense of all else. It is this approach that has burdened a generation of people, young and old, with unjust cuts. Unjust cuts that do nothing to help anyone in our society.

But what induces such rivalry among young and old? Surely, based on truth, it would not exist. Skewed visions of reality are essential to such rivalry. Young people are, supposedly, caught in a ‘welfare trap’. Work is unattractive to young people, and thus, they should have their dole cut.

The reality, however, is very different. According to the National Youth Council of Ireland, 177,000 young people have left Ireland to seek work since 2008. The departure lounge is filling up fast, and shows no signs of emptying.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin had a press conference this evening.

We’ll have a full report to come but here’s a taster:

The Budget is all about numbers.

But this is a clever bit of numeracy from Christine Bohan on the numbers that matter in #Budget 2014.

Oh go on, click through.

One tax change that hasn’t received much attention but surely should is the change to single parent tax credits.

Rónán Duffy explains why it will make it a difference to separated parents and the financial pressure they are already suffering.

This reaction from the CEO of One Family, Karen Kiernan, is finding it less than ‘family-friendly’.


via TheJournal.ie/Youtube

As we tot up the balances, take the measure of the cuts and analyse the strategies, TheJournal.ie is going to close its Budget 2014 liveblog for the evening.

If you want to watch the transition of the Budget initial provisions through the Dáil for the next hour or so, it will be available to view here.

Watch out for our Readers’ Panel reaction to the Budget – and other stories – later tonight on the site. In the morning, we will analyse the overall winners and losers, reveal insiders’ take on the Budget measures – and bring you TheJournal.ie business columnist Damien Kiberd’s take on what he calls the “iffy” arithmetic behind today’s announcement.

Stay tuned.

We’ll leave you with this lady, pictured by PA photographer Brian Lawless on Merrion Square, across from Leinster House, this morning. We hope she got her poster sorted in time for the announcement. Night all.

About the author:

COMMENTS (78)