The sun shines but politicians remain happy to throw shade

Inside Politics: Public grows impatient over economic strength failing to translate into better quality of life

Good morning. It’s the first of June and the sun is shining, the bank holiday is coming up and the summer holidays surely can’t be far away.

But let’s not carried away. Political exchanges remain scratchy and partisan, sometimes personal and acerbic. The Government presides over an economy that is humming along, but the public remains increasingly impatient that this economic strength is not translated into a better quality of life, more money in their pockets, lower taxes and better public services for them, while the State’s capacity to tackle long-term problems remains deeply questionable.

All these themes about our political life are evident in this morning’s political stories.

Unemployment has fallen to its lowest level ever – just 3.8 per cent, lower even than when the Celtic Tiger was at its boomiest. And remember, the workforce is a lot bigger now than it was then. Meanwhile, jobs announcements proliferated yesterday.


But as our front page story shows, economic growth continues to drive the rise in carbon emissions – which are supposed to going in the other direction. Ireland has been so far unable to decouple growth – showing that climate action plans have yet to get a grip here. The goal of sustainable economic growth and simultaneous decarbonisation seems a long way off.

Meanwhile, Cormac McQuinn reports that the Department of Housing had to return more than €380 million to the Exchequer over the last four years – money that it was unable to spend on housing. The Department has been able to carry forward nearly €1 billion of unspent funds previously in the expectation that it would spend them in the near future – but this €380 million has actually been returned to central funds unspent.

The secretary general of the department Graham Doyle will tell the Public Accounts Committee this morning that the money was returned “despite all best efforts” to spend it.

Meanwhile, housing minister Darragh O’Brien says that the drop in home ownership rates, clear in this week’s census results, is “starting to reverse”.

Pullin’ and draggin’ in the Dail meanwhile where Green junior minister Pippa Hackett got in a barney with some rural Independents which led to the suspension of the House on two occasions. In the same debate, the Green TD Brian Leddin called Fine Gael’s approach to the proposed EU nature restoration law “shameful and pitiful”. Maybe it’s just as well the bank holiday is coming up.

Meanwhile, Miriam Lord’s sketch from a much less contentious Leaders’ Questions session is here.

Finally, illustrating just how much our public finances rely on a small number of US companies, Eoin Burke-Kennedy reports that just three firms accounted for a third of all corporate tax receipts between 2017 and 2021 – a finding by the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council which he says suggests Ireland’s business tax base is even more concentrated around a small number of firms than previously thought.

Correction: Yesterday’s politics digest contained an error in its report on the findings of the census. The number of Muslims in Ireland has not increased “fourfold”, as stated. It has increased by 19,898 to 81,930, not from 19,898 to 81,930, as the original article implied.

Best reads

On the same theme of the problems that uneven prosperity brings

Newton Emerson pours cold water on the threat of joint authority

Shauna Bowers has been examining Sinn Fein’s US filings

Meanwhile in Moldova

Denis O’Brien and Catherine Murphy clash on Siteserv report


Helen McEntee returns from maternity leave to the Department of Justice today. Dealing with cops and robbers and minding the security of the State will probably be a welcome relief after a few months at home with two small children.

In the Dáil, the days starts with health questions at 9am. The Tánaiste will be in for Leaders’ Questions as the Taoiseach is in Moldova for the European Political Community meeting. A civilised 7pm adjournment.

Even quieter in the Seanad where the highlight is statements on capital investment in the health service. As with many of these sessions, we can be sure that everyone will agree it’s a good idea.

At the committees, the builders are in at the housing committee, while Government expenditure on housing will be scrutinsed at the Public Accounts Committee. The Garda watchdog Gsoc is in at the Committee on Public Petitions. The disability committee meets with a panel of advocates while a series of other committees are meeting in private. Details here