Some time after tea tonight, and with little credit to their own political skills, the Government and Simon Coveney will hope to draw a line under the Katherine Zappone story.
hen, all our political leaders have to do is frame an €80bn Budget for 2022 to take us out of Covid-19 times and compensate for an expected €2bn per year loss in company tax revenue; fix a climate change plan to help save the world; drive on an extremely ambitious housing provision plan; decide the pension futures of a rapidly ageing Irish population; and a number of other sundry details.
As the Government drives into the detail of all of these issues, some may welcome back that dreary eight-week row about a strange UN non-appointment and a related ministerial farewell party pitched on the margins of Covid-19 practices.
But politics is rarely neat, and here is a quick flick of some of the upcoming joys ahead of us all.
Budget Day: October 12
Counting four weeks from yesterday, on Tuesday, October 12, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe will be on his hind legs in the Dáil, telling us the shape of the financial and fiscal year 2022.
This is more than the usual annual Houdini act. We have already spent €34bn more than expected on the various Covid supports and are running epic long-term debts.
This country has until October 8 to decide whether we are sticking with the five hold-out countries that refuse to fall in with the 140 nations signed up to the US-driven plan on multi-national company tax agreed under the aegis of the OECD.
This is about ensuring corporations pay some reasonable tax somewhere, rather than allowing them to play one jurisdiction against another.
That change would up Ireland’s company tax rate from its storied 12.5pc to an agreed 15pc.
It looks like Ireland will have to acquiesce here.
We are told that would cost a minimum of €2bn a year – if not more. That’s not a hit expected for next year, but provision must be factored in as soon as possible.
From the mitigation corner, international money is extremely cheap right now, with little sign of interest rate hikes on the horizon. Debt-paying in the recent past gives the country a good credit rating.
But last week, Mr Donohoe signalled that the short-term deficit must be cut over the coming two years. Debate has already begun in the EU about when the single-currency membership rules on deficit and debt, which were suspended in spring 2020 due to the Covid crisis, can be reinstated.
The direction of that debate remains to be seen. But Ireland would do well to start meeting rules that are inevitably going to be phased back in to some degree.
Already Fine Gael has set out its stall on pensions, tax and welfare. But let’s recall that it is just one party among the three coalition partners.
The really big one is an action plan to give effect to the Climate Change Act passed by TDs and senators earlier this year. This commits Ireland to the ambitious target of reducing carbon emissions by 7pc each year for the next nine years.
The Green Party is heavily invested in this one, which is a key reason why it is in government.
However, the other two parties are keenly aware of Ireland’s EU and other international obligations to meet these targets.
An action plan to give effect to the legislation is promised before the end of this month. So far, all Ireland has done is talk, but the real sting is how much of a hit each sector will take to meet these targets, with farming and transport in the firing line.
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan is trying to stress the positives of potential job creation from clean technologies and the promise of “just transition” for vulnerable communities.
However, debate so far has been muted and the real crunch issues have yet to be exposed, with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael likely to come under serious pressure.
Moves to raise the pension qualification age became a big issue in the 2020 election. Now a Pensions Commission has recommended delaying the planned pension age of 67, and later 68, by quite some years.
The Government is studying this one closely and has just six months to make a tricky political call. Meanwhile, Sinn Féin, which benefited from this one in 2020, is busy making promises. This one feeds into the big budgetary picture and decisions cannot be delayed too long.