As it happened: Budget 2024 fallout sees sharp exchanges in the Dáil

Sinn Féin leader says Donnelly was ‘thrown under the bus’ while Taoiseach accuses SF of being ‘seriously high tax’ party


Following the presentation of the budget to Dáil Éireann on Tuesday, there was plenty of of reaction and analysis from across the political spectrum on Wednesday.

There’s lots to get stuck into across our coverage, as well as recapping the events of the day below, from defence recruitment to arts investment, as the consequences of the budget became clear.

Here are some more of our key reads on Budget 2024.

Key reads


Wednesday’s live coverage of Budget 2024 is now finished. Thank you for sticking with us today.

You can find our complete coverage of this year’s budget here.

Don’t forget to check out the main points from Tuesday’s announcements and make use of our calculator to see how they affect you.


Deirdre Falvey, Irish Times features and arts writer, has the details of Minister for Tourism, Culture and Arts Catherine Martin’s budget press conference below:

Spending of €367.406 million on arts and culture is planned, following “sustained investment” in the sector in recent years, Ms Martin said.

The Arts Council’s budget for next year will be €134 million, “in recognition of the transformational impact of this funding and to support the sector”. This is an increase on last year’s funding of €130 million for the council, the national agency for funding, developing and promoting the arts in Ireland.

“I vastly increased the Arts Council budget, particularly in recent years, moving from €75 million in 2019 to €134 million today. I think the Arts Council has done a good job with that money, spending it wisely and it’s had a really positive effect on art and culture,” she said.

Culture Ireland, the State agency to promote and advance Irish arts internationally, has been allocated an additional €1m, bringing its funding to €7.6 million.

Changes to Section 481 tax relief, increasing the cap for qualifying expenditure under tax credit for film and television from €70 million to €125 million, is expected to attract bigger-budget productions and boost employment.

The Minister said “it will further enhance Ireland’s attractiveness as a location for major international film and television projects, building on the remarkable success this year of Banshees of Inisherin, and An Cailín Ciúin.”

The Budget allocates an extra €1.9 million for additional capital support for regional arts infrastructure. It will go towards building and equipment needs, including equipment for measures to improve the Night-time Economy, and to adapt facilities to reduce energy and carbon footprint. A pilot is planned to explore how to allocate these funds.


Rise of 10% in criminal legal aid fees will be built upon in coming years, says McEntee

The 10 per cent increase in fees for criminal barristers and solicitors working in criminal free legal aid cases announced in this week’s Budget will be built upon in the coming years, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has pledged.

A total of €9 million was allowed in the budget to begin restoring criminal legal aid fees allowing a 10 per cent increase in early 2024.

It followed a series of protests by barristers over the past year culminating in a daylong dispute earlier this month, when they withdrew their services for a day.

The Department of Justice has also undertaken to continue discussing what it called a “further strengthening” of criminal legal aid in the future.

“This is a long, ongoing issue for many barristers and solicitors,” said Ms McEntee on Wednesday.

“I want to make sure that we have as fair a fee structure as possible moving forward [and] building on the 10 per cent increase agreed for the Budget next year.

“Both my department and I will engage with different representative organisations to look at the overall structure, the types of fees that are paid, the type of work that is done and how it is paid out.

Ms McEntee also specifically said that issues such as delays in payments would also be examined.

Ms McEntee was speaking at a press conference where she announced details of the Budget 2024 provisions for her Department.

The overall allocation to her Department for 2024 is €3.27 billion in current expenditure plus €274 million for capital projects. There is a €2.3 billion budget for An Garda Síochána, representing an increase of €172 million for 2024 compared to 2023.

Asked at the conference if she was confident that the Gardaí could recruit an additional 800 to 1,000 new members in 2024, she said that there would be five classes graduating from Templemore and was confident the target would be achieved.

“Money will not be the issue here as far as I am concerned, to make sure the numbers come through.” – Political Correspondent Harry McGee


Health service freezes orders in response to budgetary pressures

A recruitment freeze is being introduced in parts of the health service to address massive overspending in the sector.

In a further cost-saving measure, there will be no dedicated funding for new drugs next year, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has announced.

Some 162 new hospital beds will be opened next year, along with 22 critical care beds, Mr Donnelly told a press briefing on the health aspects of Budget 2024 on Wednesday.

The Health Service Executive has said it expects to incur a €1.5 billion deficit by the end of the year, due mainly to inflation and increased patient demand. The overspend has severely curtailed the amount available next year for new developments.

Mr Donnelly declined to specify which areas will be affected, saying it is a matter for the HSE.

“In spite of all this investment we have a long way to go in providing people with the health services they need and should have,” he acknowledged. “Waiting lists are still far too long, in spite of the progress made and this causes enormous difficulties for patient.”

Speeding up access for patients will be his number one priority, he said.

Funding will also be provided for six surgical hubs, extra training places for health professions and improved patient access to waiting list initiatives.

There is no dedicated funding for new medicines next year, but any savings made in the area will be immediately reinvested, Mr Donnelly said. Up to €100 million were provided for this purpose over the last three years.

Irish Times Health Editor Paul Cullen has a full report of the budget press conference with Mr Donnelly here.


If you weren’t following the details of the budget yesterday blow by blow, we have a good wrap up piece here detailing all the main points.


Recruitment of 400 additional Defence Forces personnel in 2024 ‘realistic target’ – Tánaiste

The recruitment of 400 additional Defence Forces personnel in 2024 is a “realistic target” according to Tánaiste Micheál Martin but the ultimate goal for overall numbers in the organisation is “a long way off”.

The Government committed to increasing numbers to 11,500 by 2028 after it adopted the “Level of Ambition 2″ (LOA2) framework set out by the Commission on the Defence Forces.

With numbers currently at around 8,000, Tuesday’s budget allocates funding for net recruitment of at least 400 personnel next year.

Mr Martin, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence, said that achieving this number would be “good going”.

He said the 400 figure is not a limit and that the only limit is the numbers that can be recruited amid the current situation where the country effectively has full employment. “If we can go beyond it, we will and we will do that.”

However, he also said the target for more than 11,000 is “a long way off that given current recruitment trends”.

Mr Martin said that the allocation for defence in 2024, €1.23 billion, is the largest ever and defended the measures in the budget in the wake of attacks from Opposition TDs.

Independent TD Cathal Berry, a former Defence Forces officer told the Dáil on Tuesday that prior to the budget there was good reason to expect the Defence Forces would be “adequately resourced”.

He cited wars in Ukraine and the Middle East and the recent drug bust off the coast of Co Cork where just one Defence Forces helicopter and ship were available.

He argued that “This budget has landed very poorly”, that it has “gone down like a lead balloon”, and it includes no retention measures.

Mr Martin said he fundamentally disagreed with such criticisms adding he spoke to Mr Berry on Tuesday night and “pointed out to him improvements that have been made but also the fact that there will be further capital allocations.

“He wasn’t aware of that at the time in the light of the increase in the NDP [National Development Plan] ceilings which have yet to be allocated across government departments.”

Mr Martin said this meant that the current €176 million allocation will increase in the coming months, though he could not at this point say by how much.

He said that some €13.8 million has been approved to extend private healthcare to all enlisted personnel and this is “a very significant advance” and that starting salaries in the Defence Forces “compare favourably” with those in place across the public service.

He said there is “no-hold up” on any capital project and cited around €120 million in infrastructure projects under way at different stages of development.

Mr Martin said the Air Corps has taken delivery of a C295 aircraft – which has a strategic lift capacity – and there’s another one to come and that these aircraft will improve capacity for maritime surveillance.

He said there needs to be “perspective and fairness” in commentary on Defence Forces matters and “not to always have a narrative of negativity.”

He said he was “taken aback”, while “accepting criticism and the need to do more”, by the immediate aftermath of the recent drugs bust which he described as a “very successful operation”.

“Within hours it had to be turned into a negative story,” he said.

Mr Martin said money is being provided in the budget to enhance recruitment and resources – Cormac McQuinn Political Correspondent


Sarah Burns reporting from the Dáil:

The Government “certainly threw” the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly “under the bus” in this year’s Budget, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said.

Speaking in reaction to Budget 2024, Ms McDonald said there was “not an additional cent for new hospital beds”.

“The minister’s [for health] big promise of 1,500 additional beds was torn up,” she told the Dáil on Wednesday. “Perhaps it was in punishment for the massive cost overruns that now plague the health service.”

Ms McDonald said that in the Taoiseach’s budget statement in the chamber this afternoon, there wasn’t “one mention” of health in the “very long and very expansive speech”.

The Sinn Féin leader also pointed out that it was 13 years since a Fianna Fáil minister for finance introduced a budget, adding “we all know the reason for that hiatus”.

“The party of the Tánaiste Micheál Martin crashed the economy,” she said. “Micheál Martin sat at Cabinet when Government decimated public finances, drove the housing market off a cliff and scattered our young people to the four corners of the globe in search of work and opportunity.”

Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns said the Government had blatantly introduced a budget with more support for landlords than tenants or first-time buyers.

“It is just incredible there is twice as much funding in the budget for landlords than the tenants who are paying record rents,” she said.

Ms Cairns added that the budget was “a clear demonstration” of where the Government’s priorities lay.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Budget 2024 would help put “more money” in the pockets of the most vulnerable and squeezed middle.

Mr Varadkar also hit out at Sinn Féin and said the party had proposed “no less than 19 separate tax increases” in its alternative budget.

“Sinn Féin is a seriously high tax party, tax increases amounting to almost €3 billion, while the economy is still grappling with a cost of living crisis,” he said.


Meanwhile, it has emerged a man was arrested during an incident at Government Buildings on budget day.

The Irish Times understands that a man was apprehended by gardaí and was pepper sprayed as he was being arrested. He was held on suspicion of trespass and has since been charged with offences related to that alleged trespass.

We have a more detailed news report on the incident here.


Hi, Jack Power here, I will be looking after the budget day two live story into the evening.

There’s press conferences going on through this afternoon where individual Ministers are taking questions on what measures were announced for their departments.

Expect reports from the Department of Health, Department of Justice and the Department of Tourism, and possibly more reaction from other corners.


Budget 2024 will allow the country to “gear up” for the future and ensure there is funding in place to weather any economic downturns, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has said.

The country also needed to protect against climate change, reduce emission and protect nature, he told RTÉ Radio’s News at One.

“We know that there are projects coming which we will have to invest in. And by setting aside a fund which we will be able to pay for those with, it gives great certainty.

“But it also will provide the funding we need and provide economic benefits and advantages for the country in reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, on improving our natural world, and protecting against the change that’s already inevitable.”

Mr Ryan said that the benefits of such funds were already being seen from the carbon tax.

“Firstly, 30 per cent of it goes to social protection. So this budget, like the previous three this government has done, was progressive. Those on the lowest income got a 4.7 per cent increase in income, the richest got a 1.5 per cent. And part of that is because we can use money from the carbon tax to help the poorest.

“Secondly, what it does, it allows us to invest in the retrofitting of buildings again, which is directed at those who have the lowest income, and thirdly goes to farmers right across the country to help them make the switch.

“So that tax measure has been hugely progressive. There’s a real strength to it because we know it’s going to rise year in, year out, and it allows us to provide for what we need in the country while other tax revenues are also lower.”

Mr Ryan also defended investment in the transport sector. He said he believed the public was “absolutely in favour” of providing public transport services that would benefit them. – Vivienne Clarke


Free schoolbooks scheme won’t apply to private school students, minister confirms

Free schoolbooks at second level will not apply to almost 30,000 students attending fee-charging schools, Minister for Education Norma Foley has confirmed.

Budget 2024 will extend free schoolbooks to second level students up to Junior Cycle to more than 210,000 students in schools in the so-called free scheme. It is estimated to be worth just over €310 per student.

At a press conference at Government Buildings on Wednesday, Ms Foley said the fee-charging school sector already receives extensive support in the form of salaries for teaching staff.

She said last year’s decision to extend free schoolbooks to the primary sector also applied to pupils attending schools in the free scheme only.

Read Irish Times Education Editor Carl O’Brien’s full report here.


The muted reaction in the Dáil chamber to the speeches of Michael McGrath and Paschal Donohoe belied the fact that this was a significant budget that made two very substantial moves, writes Irish Times Political Editor Pat Leahy.

Firstly, with at most 18 months before a general election and with the Government parties struggling in the opinion polls, Tuesday’s budget was a huge giveaway to voters.

In line with the plans laid down this summer, recurring expenditure will increase by €5.3 billion, coupled with tax cuts of €1.1 billion. This will be supplemented by once-off cash giveaways intended to assist people with cost-of-living increases, totalling €2.7 billion. But there’s also €4.5 billion of “non-core” expenditure – at least some of which will end up funding public services, especially in health.

Some people will benefit more than others, of course. But everyone will get something. Middle Ireland, the squeezed middle, call it what you will – it was clearly very much in the minds of the framers of this budget.

Read the full analysis here.


There was lots of talk of mortgage interest reliefs, energy credits and tax cuts after yesterday’s Budget 2024 unveiling – but what measures went under the radar? Cormac McQuinn has you covered.

If you’ve got solar panels, you’re in for a tax break. There is to be a doubling of the tax disregard on income tax received by households who sell electricity back to the grid from January to €400.

Limerick will have a directly-elected mayor from next June. The establishment of the new office will be funded by an additional €29 million allocated to local government around the country.

An additional €20.4 million will be set aside for Garda operational costs – it will be used in expanding the Garda Dog unit and fund further road safety policing.


Taoiseach defends Government decision to break spending rules

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has defended the Government’s decision to break its own spending rule in Budget 2024, saying the move was justified because of high inflation.

After the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council said the rule breach risks stoking inflation, Mr Varadkar insisted the rule can change “depending on circumstances” and predicted inflation will still fall.

The Taoiseach was speaking on Wednesday after canvassing morning commuters at the Irish Financial Services Centre in Dublin. “Generally, people I’ve met are happy with the budget,” he told reporters.

The Fiscal Council, the State’s statutory economic watchdog, had complained about the package, however, rushing out a statement to say the budget went beyond domestic rules that are supposed to keep annual spending increases within 5 per cent.

The plan will add to inflation, the council said. “Importantly, the national spending rule is planned to be breached every year out to 2026. With no other credible anchor, this severely undermines the path for Ireland’s public finances.”

Asked what was the purpose of having a rule if the Government was going to break it, Mr Varadkar said Ministers had to make a “political judgment” on the right thing to do.

“I am confident that, notwithstanding the fact that a lot of resources are being deployed in this budget – even though, there will be a lot more money in people’s pockets – we’ll still see inflation fall,” the Taoiseach said.

“Inflation this time last year was 10 per cent, prices really rising dramatically. It has moderated to 5 per cent now. We think it will be around 3 per cent next year.”

Mr Varadkar said the 5 per cent domestic spending rule was based on inflation at 2 per cent, allowing a further 3 per cent increase for demographic changes and increased services.

“We decided it was appropriate to change that rule and we did,” the Taoiseach said.

“Inflation isn’t 2 per cent, it’s 5 per cent and going to be 3 per cent next year and that’s why we made the change. It is our own rule. It’s not an arbitrary figure,” he added.

“We have a number of spending rules. So, there’s all the European spending rules, which people know about and they voted for in the Fiscal Treaty. We’re not breaking any of those legally binding rules, far from it.

“We have our own domestic spending rule of a 5 per cent increase in spending. It’s not a figure we have plucked out of thin air.” – Arthur Beesley


Dominic Coyle, of The Irish Times, alongside PwC’s Máiread Harbron, is answering lots of queries over on the Ask the Experts post-budget live blog.

If you’re trying to work out how Budget 2024 will affect you, take a look.

Q. I had a mortgage of €139,000 all during 2022. Unfortunately, I couldn’t keep it up so I had to sell the property in March 2023. I am now renting again. Can I claim Mortgage interest relief for 2022 and, if so, how?

From Kieran

A. The relief is only available to those who are paying mortgage interest this year.

Any amount you get would be calculated by taking your total mortgage interest bill for 2023 and seeing how much higher it is than the interest you paid last year.

As you sold the property in March, there is no way your interest bill will be higher than last year when you were paying the mortgage for the full 12 months. As a result, you will not qualify for any relief from the measure announced in the budget.


Tánaiste: Introduction of savings fund an important, ‘far-seeing measure’

Tánaiste Micheál Martin has said that the most important legacy from Tuesday’s budget is the introduction of a savings fund.

“The biggest issue in the budget was what I think is a very far-seeing measure, the introduction of the savings fund, which will protect the future for young people today, the 20-year-old and 30-year-olds today, not in decades ahead, but in the decade ahead.

“If a recession comes or the economy downturns, the tendency has always been to cut capital projects. But we’re saying by this measure is we want to maintain momentum on a Metro. We want to maintain momentum on new rail systems and public transport and more busses and so on, and electrification of the bus fleet. And we don’t want a situation in the future if there’s an economic downturn that we don’t have a sufficiency of capital to meet those infrastructural needs because we do need to do that properly into the future.”

Mr Martin told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland that inevitably, in the aftermath of any budget, there would be varying criticisms. Challenges in putting the budget together included “a very significant inflationary period of the last two years” and an ageing population. A rising population has led to increased pressures on public expenditure and the existing levels of services.

The budget has included “very significant impactful measures” on education and childcare provision, he added.

Mr Martin said that the Government’s evidence was that the measures would help those most in need and would address the gap between rising inflation and the cost of services, and the prices that people have to pay in daily goods and services.

“We have been very focused and targeted in the combination of measures towards easing the pressure in the first instance on the most low paid. But there’s many in the middle income groups who are also struggling with what has been an extraordinary period of price increases in the most basic of goods that people buy on a daily basis.”

Mr Martin said existing targets for housing were not a limit to what could be delivered. There has been a significant increase in the delivery of social housing, he said, along with an increase in schemes to help first time buyers.

The Tánaiste acknowledged that more availability was essential and that the current momentum must be maintained. – Vivienne Clarke


Budget surpluses cannot be taken for granted, says Simon Coveney

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Simon Coveney has cautioned that people cannot take yearly budget surpluses for granted.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Mr Coveney said Ireland was different from most countries in the world, who were not operating with budget surpluses.

“We have a strong economy. We have full employment and have actually had more than full employment and the country’s finances have been managed relatively well.”

Mr Coveney added that speaking from personal experience, the Government “knows all about what happens when the wrong decisions are made in terms of how you manage a country’s finances”.

“I remember when I became a minister, 12 or 13 years ago, when we had to cut massively right across every government department, where the pay across the public sector got cut by 15 per cent, when we were virtually spending nothing in terms of capital infrastructure investment.

“This is a Government that understands that only too well and that’s why Michael McGrath yesterday, supported by Government, put over €6 billion into funds for the future to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

Mr Coveney said that a breakdown of Budget 2024 indicated that the measures introduced would most benefit those who were on the lowest incomes.

“But we also recognise that middle income earners in Ireland are also under some pressure. And so, some of the payments that we want to get out are universal to every household in the country, recognising that everybody is coping with the cost of living. They all have different financial circumstances and so on.

“Most measures are targeted towards people who are on the lowest incomes and that’s the way it should be. But some measures, particularly the ones that we want to get to quickly and without an application process or application criteria, are universal.

“One of those, of course, is the energy credits. I think if you asked households across the country whether last year’s decision by the Government to give them almost €800 in energy credits helped them through the winter debit, they’ll give you a very positive answer on that. And we’re repeating that because we can afford to do it.” – Vivienne Clarke


Major issues facing people in Ireland including housing, childcare, child poverty and disability services have not been addressed in Budget 2024, according to Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns.

“Instead, what we’ve seen is kind of a bit for everyone, more of the same and not a real meaningful approach. It’s a sticking plaster to cover up our eroding services and the absence of investment in core financial services and financial supports for people who really desperately need them,” she told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland.

Ms Cairns said she was “gobsmacked” at the absence of any kind of meaningful approach to really address child poverty, despite a unit being set up within the Taoiseach’s office.

She said she thought it was a typo when she saw the €64 million allocation to disability services, given the department’s own review had said it required €350 million.

“There’s nothing to indicate any kind of a change in the approach to housing, to make housing more affordable and, therefore, more social affordable homes. The list goes on. It’s kind of a bit for everyone, not enough to make a difference and a little bit more for people who need it less.”

The Budget could have gone further in addressing childcare costs, she said. Fathers were not taking up paternity leave – not because they did not want to spend time with their babies, but because they could not afford to do so because of rising energy costs and childcare costs, Cairns said.

“It’s about giving parents a choice, because some people want to spend more time at home with their children. Some people want a reduction in childcare costs. And I think we have to empower people to make their own decisions in relation to that. And a lot more could be done.” – Vivienne Clarke