A budget that matters more than most

By this time next week, we will all be fully au fait with the yins and yangs of the Budget which will be revealed in the Dail on Tuesday afternoon. It is probably safe to say that of all the budgets that we have experienced throughout our lifetime, this is one that will grab the attention of almost all of us.

It will have its blockbuster qualities because of the context into which this impending winter has been slotted.

After two years of Covid-fuelled fear, we would have been forgiven for requiring fate to cut us all a bit of slack, but alas, the world, and the way it is, has created the circumstances that sees many families facing worry and uncertainty at what is normally an expensive time of the year anyway.

The consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, allied to the trickledown side-effects of the pandemic have combined to send inflation soaring and add substantially to the general cost of living.

And this has led to palpable fear among the elderly who are more vulnerable to the harshness of winter; and among families who are seeing domestic energy costs go through the roof at a time when almost all of our homes and working life are driven by electrical appliances and devices.

It is in recent years that the Budget has switched to the autumn, and this year, more than ever, it comes on the eve of a winter, maybe not of discontent, but one of potential discomfort. There is not a house in the country that will be unaffected by the massive rises in the cost of fuel and essentials, and so, when Paschal Donoghue and Michael McGrath present Tuesday’s budget, the country will be hanging on every word, in the hope that some relief can be provided.

In childhood, there was a novelty to when the lights went off; indeed, there was disappointment when they came back on. The lights going off in a house of the 1970s, brought people together around the orange embers of the fire, the flickering candle or the feeble torch.

But now, power runs so much of our lives, there is concern that its loss will discommode us so much more.

The possibility of such outages has been dismissed, but what cannot be is the certainty that paying for that power will strain even the most robust of households.

Through lockdown, we looked out for one another, minded the most vulnerable and saw them through. It is incumbent on us all to show a similar generosity of spirit if people are afraid, lonely, cold, or hungry this winter.

The State needs to put its hand in its pocket and ease the burden as we try to winter this one out. One hopes, they won’t be found lacking.

 

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