Belfast Telegraph

EU mandarins' praise for Republic's hairshirt budget proves bittersweet

By Margaret Canning

Tough and ambitious are words often used to describe the intake of contestants in the BBC business reality show The Apprentice.

Now the words have surfaced in an altogether different context, as European mandarins shower praise on the government of the Republic for its hairshirt Budget of this week.

European Commission spokesman Amadeu Altafaj welcomed the measures, which range from cutting child benefit to lowering income tax bands and cutting the minimum wage.

Mr Altafaj said: "It is a successful first step towards the implementation of the programme that was agreed with the EU and the IMF. It is an ambitious and indispensable tool for redressing the situation."

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan may feel mollified by the international praise, which contrasts with his domestic drubbing.

And the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants agreed with some commentators who said the Republic's difficulty is Northern Ireland's opportunity as it may present a more stable economic prospect.

He also waded into the corporation tax debate saying: "My sense is that there will be no devolution of the UK's corporation tax rate."

Realism or pessimism, only time will tell.