Land grab claiming credit for goodies in the next budget is under way

Fiscal discipline is the order of the day, until politics butts in that is

Good morning,

Maybe it’s a side effect of climate change, but budget season seems to come earlier every year. Barely halfway through April, and the Government parties are already engaged in a land grab claiming credit for budget goodies that won’t be decided for around five months. For a quick contrast, it was towards the end of May last year when three Fine Gael ministers sparked a scrap with Fianna Fáil by penning an op-ed article calling for tax cuts - and that was seen as jumping the gun.

Eager not to be beaten to the punch this year, Micheál Martin and Michael McGrath put their best foot forward this weekend just gone during their ardfheis, staking their claim for tax cuts and welfare increases, and sketching out the possibility of more energy credits next winter - an interesting reverse ferret as it was only January when McGrath was talking about phasing out one-off payments. “Those exceptional interventions cannot be the norm and in a more normal economic environment you cannot fund those interventions indefinitely. So it is our intention to revert to a more normal approach to budgetary policy in the future,” he told The Irish Times in January. Fiscal discipline is the order of the day, until politics butts in.

Is it the election of a new Taoiseach, or simply just electoral politics? Certainly, Simon Harris was an early mover in recent weeks, snaffling an effective announcement extending development levy waivers for the construction sector for his ardfheis speech (Fianna Fáil being the current custodians of the Department of Housing). Everywhere you look, there are micro-incursions on each other’s territory - legitimately taking partial credit for something that is after all a Government decision, sure, but at the same time, making sure the other crowd don’t get all the glory. Yesterday, Simon Harris and Heather Humphreys were out in Lucan announcing an expansion of the hot school meals scheme (on the footage carried on news bulletins, Fianna Fáil’s Jack Chambers clung on at the edge of proceedings, but didn’t get a mention). Simultaneously, it was being trumpeted on Fianna Fáil Ministers’ social media accounts under that party’s branding.


In contrast to last year’s rare full-blown battle, this year the fallout has been more limited. Harris yesterday defended each party’s “right to set out its own perspective” - although there was still a shade-throwing press release from Fine Gael Senator Maria Byrne welcoming their coalition partners “finally seeing the light for hard-working families”. Snark aside, it is clear that the political system is changing lanes and zeroing in on the coming elections.

The Greens hold their ardfheis this weekend. Eamon Ryan is seen as having played a low key and effective hand during budget talks since 2020 - megaphone negotiation has not really been his style. He is a devotee of the ‘no drama’ credo that ruled the roost among the three Coalition parties once a difficult bedding-in period was behind them in 2020. But there is an underlying political reality that the other two parties seem to have grasped: the coming months are the last and best opportunity to remind voters why the current parties are in Government, and why they should be voted in again. Will Ryan and co set out their stall this weekend?

Away from our shores, events in the Middle East dominate, including on our front page.

Best reads

Michael Jansen on the chances of lose-lose warfare.

Fintan O’Toole argues the current Middle East situation is the result of accumulated Western mistakes in the region.

Mary Hannigan on the perma-farce at the FAI.

Fiona Reddan on the tax pitfalls of gifting money to children.


The week kicks off with Simon Harris’s delayed inaugural leaders’ questions at 2pm, followed by the Order of Business and Taoiseach’s Questions at 3.15pm. At 4pm, Heather Humphrey’s auto-enrolement Bill continues its progress through the Oireachtas, before a Sinn Féin motion on cancer strategy at teatime.

The day is rounded off by oral PQs for Norma Foley and topical issues shortly after 9pm.

Here’s the full schedule.

In the committee rooms, the housing committee continues its marathon hearings on the planning Bill at 2.15pm, while the children’s committee has an engagement on protecting children in the use of AI - with social media companies due in.

The justice committee will continue pre-legislative scrutiny on proceeds of crime legislation at 4pm.

The full schedule is here.

The Seanad hears commencement matters at 1pm, before statements on agriculture and legislation on safe access zones in the afternoon.

A full rundown can be found here.

Away from Leinster House, Harris will travel to Brussels in the afternoon for his debut European Council. Expect the Middle East to feature strongly, and for the new Taoiseach to press home the case for recognition of Palestinian statehood with other EU leaders.

Michael McGrath and Paschal Donohoe are stateside for the IMF and World Bank spring meetings in Washington, DC.

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