Well the mood music at the Fine Gael’s National Conference was pretty upbeat. They reckoned that offering free medical cards for the under fives was going to frame the post budget debate, and they weren’t wrong.
Most striking aspect of the opposition’s problem (mostly FF’s) was in trying to land a single major blow on the intricate tracework of the Michael and Brendan show yesterday.
They reduced the target somewhat by restructuring repayments on the deficit less painful. Medical cards changes substantially repackage the considerable difficulties they are having with overall health reforms.
Put simply there’s not enough money in the kitty (at least in the short term) to even begin to copy the UK’s free at the point of delivery model.
Although, as Harry Magee notes, it is Labour that might expect some fillip from these headline stories:
This time when the party put ‘political facts on the ground’ such as free GP care for under fives, protecting class sizes, and protecting social welfare rates, it more or less made good on its promises.
This time around it is perhaps Noonan and Fine Gael who will face the greater flak than Howlin and Labour. And that is in the context of Howlin always getting the short straw in terms of having to announce cuts.
There’s no major controversy lurking and perhaps Labour will sense they have had the slightly better day today, if they make adjudications in that light.
Well, will it be enough to get the Labour party through another budget or two, not least since Ireland’s jerry-built taxation system means that some low earners (as little as €30k) are burdened with high rate payments?
Much depends on rising expectations of economic growth. Noonan’s forecast yesterday was for a rise to 2%, the ESRI has been even more optimistic citing 2.7%.