Explaining his reasoning for easing austerity Michael Noonan said, “too long a sacrifice can stone of the heart”. This phrase from W.B Yeats ‘Easter 1916’ underlines the most significant realities of the 2013 Budget: sacrifice, hope, and independence.
Firstly, there was the recognition that this is once again a budget of sacrifice. For the 8th consecutive time the people of Ireland are forced to pay for the deliberate mistakes of greedy bankers. From the abolition of the telephone allowance to the €25 million worth of cuts to third-level institutions, the budget again contains measures that will hurt ordinary people that did nothing to cause the crises. And yet, for the first time since 2008, it is a budget that offers something new: tangible hope.
Since 2010, the government has met every troika target set out in our bailout package. Ten-year bond yields have fallen almost a quarter below their 2011 high to 4 per cent; a massive achievement considering the continued difficulties of other european countries, namely the ‘PIGS’. We were able to take €600 million less in savings than were specified in the bailout, while keeping below the 7.5 per cent deficit target.
Bond yields and deficit targets mean little to ordinary people that continue to carry the burden of austerity, but this budget had something for them too. The free GP visits for children under 5 will make a big difference to young families and the abolition of the pension levy should be an equally welcome change.
More importantly with 25 pro-jobs and pro-business measures, it marks a change of focus from the stabilisation of our country’s finances, to the growth of our economy. These measures (and more) mark the first time we can confidently say that we are turning a corner. We’re not completely around the bend, but we can finally see a new road.
There will always be disagreement about specific measures in any budget, however this budget marks a time we can all be proud. On December 15th Ireland will be the first country to exit it’s bailout. We are back from the abyss of 2010 and well on the road to regaining the independence that MacDonagh, MacBride, Connolly, and Pearse fought for.
Once again the heroes are ordinary people: nurses and teachers, young and old, everybody played their part. In this budget we can only give them some recognition, but from this budget, Fine Gael aims for future rewards.
Paul Henry is the Chairperson of DCU Young Fine Gael.