THE final words by Finance Minster Paschal Donohoe on Budget 2023 had barely stopped echoing around the Dáil Chamber, concluding the biggest giveaway budget in Irish non-pandemic history, when the reviews were in.
Spoiler alert: They were not good, dear reader. Not good at all.
Opposition politicians, advocacy groups, leading members of organisations - some in receipt of taxpayers’ money, others dependent on charity - and leading siren voices on social media fell over themselves with haste to dismiss the €11 billion giveaway with a petulant curl of the lip.
Is that all you got? Pah!
Then the plaintive cry went up: What about me? What about them? What about us? Please can we have some more? Except they didn’t say please.
The critics resembled a flock of particularly hungry and needy fledglings in their nest, waiting on Mama Michael McGrath and Papa Paschal to deliver the goods, pronto.
After each had swallowed a big, juicy worm, the bounty was instantly forgotten - eaten bread and all that - and they wailed for more, and more, and more.
Whatever happened to counting your blessings, even for just a short while?
The reaction to this week’s Budget in some quarters was so hysterically ungrateful and over-the-top, that it made you wonder how a people who were forged in famines, repression and recessions for centuries, could have so soon transformed into such an entitled, whiny bunch of moaners.
And it also again begged the question: Who would be a politician, in this modern age? Where demands grow more shrill by the day, where a tax cut or a hand-out is never enough, and where even a smidgen of gratitude from the recipients is viewed as a sign of weakness?
You wonder if Paschal walked into his home on Tuesday night, having sent fistfuls of our money flying in every direction like a drunken lottery winner in a saloon, poured himself a stiff Scotch, raised his eyes to the heavens, and muttered to his wife: “Tough crowd!”
The response was so universally negative that it seems unfair to select some examples, but here are a few lowlights.
Social Justice Ireland railed against the €12 a week increase in weekly social welfare rates as “a serious disappointment” and “totally inadequate”.
Opposition parties were angry before the Budget was even revealed, saying it had not done enough for families and workers.
Which was news to one Cork person on Twitter, who felt single people with no kids were the ones who had been let down. Many said it was a “rich person’s Budget”.
I get that people will always look after No.1 - I won’t benefit at all from the cuts in childcare or the reductions in university fees, for instance - but there was such a spread in supports in the Budget that I reckon everybody will get some relief.
Of course, we shouldn’t knock the Opposition parties too much. It is their job to oppose, even when finding fault in a €11billion giveaway makes you look like you have a degree in hair-splitting..
It’s also the role of advocacy groups to, well, advocate. If your job is to draw attention to and attract funding for a certain group in society, then that is what you do, day in, day out, year in, year out.
The problem is, this cacophony of demands builds into a chorus of never-ending disapproval, a crescendo of Never Enough! Never, Never! - as the song goes - and makes you wonder what effect it all has on the nation’s psyche.
Sure, in a country where hating and baiting the government of the day is akin to a national sport, I wouldn’t expect us to turn into a nation of cheerleaders for our politicians overnight. But what’s wrong with a level-headed, reasonable response to a given situation, especially when the news is largely - some may say wholly - good?
God knows, we have enough bad news these days.
We’ve just come through a pandemic - that might still have a sting in its tail - we have a war in Europe, a mad dictator threatening to nuke his enemies, who include neutral Ireland, and are constantly reminded the end of the world is nigh because of climate change.
The only bit of good news for the Irish in recent days were the signs that England look a long way from winning the World Cup.
So, when we are handed some good news, can we not savour it, even for a day or two?
Because, make no mistake - and I don’t want to sugar coat this - it is going to be a tough winter for virtually all of us, as fuel bills and other prices soar.
The Budget was only intended to alleviate that somewhat - it could never take away all the pain and discomfort coming down the tracks. But it will help, moderately, and the Budget seems to be to have the scope to help everyone through this bind.
For that, I am grateful. Many of us should be.
I am glad, too, that thanks to the hard-working people of this country, the economy is in a decent enough shape to allow such an unprecedented giveaway Budget.
We are working so hard that our bumper taxes are allowing the Government to raise all boats.
Pity the poor Brits, whose tax revenue is in a different place. While their Bank of England is raising interest rates to curb high inflation, their politicians are announcing tax cuts that will only stoke it, That’s a death grapple that will be fascinating and grisly to watch from afar.
Here in Ireland, we are in a different place, and thankfully - that word again - run by people who have a bit more cop-on.
I could rail against the Government for the housing disaster - and will again, I’m sure - and myriad other things. For one, their failure to grasp the nettle of raising the pension age smacks of short-term populism over long-term sensible planning. For another, there were a staggering 508 patients admitted to Irish hospitals on Budget day waiting for beds. But today, credit where it’s due.
And, despite the tough winter coming down the tracks for us all, it’s time for us to show a bit of resilience and stoicism in the face of all the doom and gloom. Old-fashioned qualities, I know.
Yes, the government and our politicians have a responsibility to protect us when the economy takes a hit, and especially to help the poorest and most vulnerable.
But they cannot be a balm for all ills.