The Government has made major changes to the Medical Card plan at a 9.45 press conference this morning. Although the over 70s will still be means-tested, income eligibility levels have been increased to 95%. Additionally, the IMO will be allowed to negotiate on behalf of GPs to help resolve the crisis. If this is enough to keep together Bertie’s band of buddies, and stem the tide of yet more resigning councillors, only time will tell. My own analysis is that this budget was not intended as a real hairshirter, rather a mini-budget before the real belt-tightener comes next April/May. This is all because of the necessity of passing Lisbon, as it looks increasingly likely that a referendum will be held again. My guess is that the Government decided on a relatively soft budget now before Lisbon and a much harsher one after. However, to an Irish public fattened up by bumper budgets for the past 15 years, last Tuesday’s budget seemed like a model of austerity rather than a transitional budget as the Government had probably hoped.