Simon Harris relishing role as Budget 2024 kites take flight early

Inside Politics: Cabinet meets with Justice matters dominating the agenda

Good morning,

Ministers will tackle a relatively packed Cabinet agenda this morning and then face a long day in the Dáil.

Someone who appears to have been putting in plenty of long days lately is acting Minister for Justice Simon Harris, who not only has multiple memos up at Cabinet today but will also be taking part in the main Dáil set piece: statements on the chronic shortage of shelter for refugees and asylum seekers.

After this morning, Harris has only one Cabinet meeting before he hands the reins back to Helen McEntee, who returns from maternity leave on June 1st.


His work rate has not gone unnoticed within the Coalition, with many believing that he was determined to make his mark in the portfolio in order to indicate his ability to take on a bigger Cabinet role, and maybe one day the Fine Gael top job. “He doesn’t waste a second,” quipped one Coalition figure last night.

His first memo will seek to increase the maximum sentence for assaulting a garda or emergency service worker from seven to 12 years.

As we outline in our full Cabinet preview, the increase in the maximum sentence will apply where the assault causing harm in question is against an on-duty garda or emergency service worker, such as hospital staff, prison officers, members of the fire brigade, ambulance personnel or members of the Defence Forces.

Harris will also seek Cabinet approval to extend special rules that allow for the sale and consumption of alcohol in outdoor seating areas.

The measures were introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic when there was a lack of clarity around whether licensed premises could offer alcohol in an outdoor seating area to customers.

The measures will likely be extended until November 30th while work continues on the Sale of Alcohol Bill, which deals with the reform of Ireland’s alcohol licensing laws.

Mr Harris will also bring policy proposals to Cabinet around parental alienation, which is a term that usually describes a situation where one parent wrongfully influences a child or children against the other parent, which can result in the family being torn apart. It’s a sensitive topic, so expect to hear more about this today.

Ministers will also approve the renewal of the controversial Offences Against the State Act.

This legislation provides for the non-jury Special Criminal Court and along with the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act is used in the trials of subversives and in serious gangland crime cases.

After this the Minister will be in the Dáil to speak about the subject dominating the domestic political agenda, which centres around the lack of accommodation for asylum seekers, and the tensions that have been simmering in communities around the country.

Budget Kites

The budget kites appear to be flying earlier and earlier every year, and as Cormac McQuinn, Barry Roche and Pat Leahy report this morning, early demands for fresh tax cuts are causing a bit of tension.

A group of Fine Gael Ministers of State yesterday called for a €1,000 tax break for middle income workers. Minister for Finance Michael McGrath noted the demand represented an “unusual approach”.

It’s more than four months until Budget 2024, but with reports of massive surpluses sloshing around for the next few years, the pressure is on the Coalition to step in and provide more help with the ever-increasing cost of living.

As McQuinn reports, senior Government sources are pouring cold water on the Fine Gael juniors’ demands, pointing out that it would be significantly more expensive than last year’s total tax package

Fine Gael junior ministers of State Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, Martin Heydon and Peter Burke said they wanted to see tax relief of more than €1,000 for full-time workers on an average wage of €52,000.

And lest anyone say they sprung the move on an unknowing Taoiseach, a spokesman for Leo Varadkar said he had been aware in advance of what the Fine Gael ministers were planning.

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Dáil Eireann

Leaders’ Questions will kick off at 2pm, spearheaded by Sinn Féin, the Social Democrats, the Independent Group and the Rural Independent Group.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will take questions just after 3pm. After this, there will be statements on accommodation needs for new arrivals including asylum seekers and refugees. The Coalition is under serious pressure here, with many asylum seekers still sleeping on the streets.

At 7.19pm, Sinn Féin will bring a Private Members’ Bill seeking to address hospital waiting lists.

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys will take questions on her brief at 9.19pm, and this will be followed by Topical Questions. The Dáil adjourns at 11.37pm.

The full schedule can be found here.


Commencement matters will be taken at 12.30pm, before the Order of Business an hour later.

Then at 3pm, none other than former taoiseach Bertie Ahern will give an address to the Seanad to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

Another focal point of the day in the Seanad will be the Mother and Baby Homes Payment Scheme Bill. This will be debated at 6.30pm, and the Seanad will adjourn at 8.30pm.

The full Seanad schedule can be found here.


At 11am, the Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action will be discussing energy poverty with representatives from The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul and Social Justice Ireland as well as Friends of the Earth.

The Joint Committee on Autism meets at the same time to discuss autism policy with Minister of State Mary Butler and Minister for Education Norma Foley.

At 3pm, the Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage will discuss fire safety building regulations with representatives from Dublin Fire Brigade.

At 3.15pm, the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence will meet representatives from The National Cyber Security Centre to discuss the work of the organisation, which will be timely after the recent cyber attack of the health service.

The best of the rest can be found here.