As Budget speeches go, it was workaday performance from Michael Noonan to a nation jaded by austerity.
Hardly renowned for barnstorming theatrics, the Finance Minister delivered his latest multibillion-euro package of cutbacks and tax hikes with near resignation.
Apart from a flourish of humanity, borrowed from poet and one-time senator WB Yeats, Mr Noonan stuck to his straight-speaking style for a measured delivery which was quietly absorbed.
More spirited was Brendan Howlin, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, as he took the baton to detail the public spending cuts. Heckles, if not histrionics, were raised as he took aim at Fianna Fáil on the Opposition benches, whom he blamed for putting him in the position he was in.
Quotes of the day included:
:: “There will be no promissory notes, there will be no Anglo Irish Bank and there will be no bank guarantee. We will have exited the programme and Ireland will have been handed back her purse.” – Mr Noonan on a post-bailout Ireland in the new year.
:: “The last six years has left both emotional and physical scars on this country.” – Mr Howlin on measures to deal with the housing crisis, including a package for Priory Hall.
:: “Even the dead are not safe from this Government” – Michael McGrath, Fianna Fáil finance spokesman, on the cuts to bereavement grants.
:: “As WB Yeats said in Easter 1916, ’too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart’. I know that there is a view that the consolidation should go further, but people have already made many sacrifices.” – Mr Noonan, claiming the Budget could have been worse.
:: “What have you got against young mothers?” – Mr McGrath to the finance minister on maternity benefits cuts.
: “We’ve just been told we can be seen from space for the first time with all the hi-vis jackets.” – A protester outside Leinster House on the number of gardai compared to the low turnout of demonstrators.
:: “Making my estimates speech last year, I said I was confident that, as a people, we would come through this mess – a mess created by those opposite and which endangered the very viability of our State. Today I am more than confident, I am certain.” – Mr Howlin on the past and the future.
:: “The tax rate is settled policy. We are 100% committed to the 12.5% corporation tax rate. This will not change.” – Mr Noonan stands firm but says Ireland will tighten laws linked to tax avoidance.
:: “You are pitting grandparent against grandchild to make pitiful savings and people can see through it.” – Pearse Doherty, Sinn Féin finance spokesman, berates the Government over the Budget.
:: “This is a generation that if it doesn’t have it doesn’t spend.” – Eamon Timmins, of Age Action, on budget cuts on the elderly.
:: “Nobody is ideologically committed to austerity. Austerity is what is left, after Fianna Fáil in government drove the economy into the ground and led us beholden, like the famine victims of old, to seek relief outside this country.” – Mr Howlin takes aim at the Opposition benches, as he defends his spending cuts.
“Taoiseach and Tánaiste, you have dried the marrow from the bones of ordinary Irish working people the length and breadth of this State.” – Mr Doherty on the years of austerity under the Fine Gael/Labour coalition.
“This is not in the best interest of women, their children or indeed society as a whole.” – Orla O’Connor, director of National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI), on maternity benefits cuts.
“Enda has great hair, speaks great Irish, looks good for the cameras – but it’s all a facade.” – Activist Liam Mac an Bhaird at a small demonstration outside Leinster House.