Once upon a time, when the Budget was a bit of fun – then politicians spoiled it!

Paschal; Sure don’t we know what’s in the Budget weeks in advance..?

They’ve spoiled Budget Day.

Politicians, I mean.

They’ve spoiled it like they spoil so much.

They spoiled St Patrick’s Day. 

It’s hard to believe now looking at hordes of half or even three quarter pissed people traipsing around on our national feast day, but once pubs stayed firmly closed on what was then regarded, at least by some, as a purely religious festival.

Yes, we had a parade largely consisting of colourful floats from ATA Security.

But the pubs were closed.

There was always the dog show at the RDS, though. And you could buy a train ticket and have a jar at the station.
It required knowledge and determination.

They did the same to Good Friday.

God be with the days – if that’s not blasphemous – when it took real ingenuity, or close friendship with a pub owner – to get a decent pint on Good Friday.

I do recall once the gardai raiding the Terenure House because, well, the car park was full. It was a kind of clue for them.

And I do remember once in the late seventies, leaving the Oval bar on Abbey Street on Good Friday morning after an all night session only for us – six – to walk straight into a garda.

He looked. He threw his eyes to heaven. And he walked away.

Budget Day used to be fun too.

Nobody had a clue what was going to turn up in the budget.

Until some on the Evening Herald decided it was time that particular vow of silence was broken.

And so a few reporters headed off to the Dàil early on Budget Day.

They knew that TDs in the government party of the day would have been briefed. But they were being watched closely.

And so you might see a TD going into the jacks. And then a reporter. 

There might even be second TD sent in to watch the first TD to make sure he wasn’t talking to the reporter.

But there might be a knowing glance between the first TD and the hack.

And then the TD would mime smoking and hold up five fingers.

Right. That five pence on the fags.

Then he’d mime drinking a pint and hold up three fingers.

That’s three pence on a pint.

Then he’d mime having a short. And hold up two fingers.

Two pence on a glass of whiskey.

And then maybe mime driving a car and, letting go of other important items, hold up six fingers.

Six pence on petrol.

Every year, it was some variation of the above.

On a couple of occasions the “secret” signals came from the floor of the house to a journalist in the press gallery who noted them as his colleagues sat oblivious!

(The payback, by the way, would be a story appearing months later about a new road or a pothole being filled in or an extra teacher in some school somewhere attributing this achievement to the friendly TD from the toilet.)

It all really annoyed ministers and, indeed, the editor of the Evening Press!

The Press would have a speculative headline about what might come up in the budget.

The Herald would have a big banner across the page: THE BUDGET – 5p on Cigarettes, 3p on the pint, 6p on Petrol etc.

So what did they do?

They decided to cut out the leaks by telling us all in advance almost every detail of the budget.

No more secret signals in toilets, no more intrigue. No more scoops.

No more fun,

I sometimes think these guys would cancel Christmas if they could.

And, just in case there are any of them reading this, that’s NOT a suggestion.

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