We all know about the billions in funding to fight Covid-19, respond to the threat of Brexit and support measures like the Christmas Bonus for welfare recipients. But there was a lot more to Budget 2021. Here’s a flavour of what was in the fine print.
Spanish is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world and the Government clearly wants more young people to learn it. The Department of Education will use some of its funding to improve secondary school teacher supply for Spanish as well as maths and physics.
2 Battle against cyber security threats
The National Cyber Security Centre is tasked with managing security incidents and threats related to the State’s IT systems. It will be allocated cash as it seeks to implement its strategy up to 2024 to protect “critical national infrastructure” and build “resilience of public sector data and networks”.
3 €11m for museums, art galleries and orchestra
Funding for Minister Catherine Martin’s culture department will allow it to “enhance support” to the National Cultural Institutions like museums and art galleries to the tune of €11m. This includes funding for the process of transferring the National Symphony Orchestra from RTÉ to the National Concert Hall. The Arts Council funding is to be boosted by €50m to €130m.
4 Re-train to retrofit
There are big plans to retrofit homes for energy efficiency as part of the battle against climate change. Higher Education Minister Simon Harris will use part of €27.5m in funding for up-skilling and re-skilling to provide 1,500 places on retro-fitting courses.
5 €290,000 on staff at Department of Finance
The Department of Finance is to spend €290,000 on two units in the Department of Finance – EuroGroup and Climate Action. The number of staff is not listed but some of the spending is evidently related to Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe’s election as president of the EU’s powerful EuroGroup.
6 Overseas aid to rise by €30m
Ireland is borrowing tens of billions to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic but the world’s poorest countries are also fighting the pandemic. Ireland’s Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) is rising by €30m to €867m in 2021 with some of the funds to go on the hoped-for vaccine response to Covid-19.
7 Plans to spend €650m on PPE
A massive €650m has been set aside for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) like masks, gloves and gowns in 2021 as the pandemic continues. It’s hoped that manufacturing in Ireland will have “wider economic benefits for the country”.
8 €13m to be spent on the weather
Met Éireann is to get €13m in capital funding. It’s to be spent on “key projects” like a national flood forecasting and warning service and new weather radar as well as its core meteorological infrastructure.
9 Better conditions for Limerick prisoners
The Department of Justice is to spend €15m on an “extensive modernisation” of the prison facilities for male and female prisoners at Limerick Prison.
10 Boost to island pensioners
Pensioners and certain other welfare recipients who live on the islands get extra cash in their weekly payments to compensate for the additional costs of living. This is being increased from €12.70 to €20 per week.
11 €50m for cross-border projects to be spent in 2021
Plans for €500m in spending for Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s Shared Island initiative were outlined in the Budget. Of this, €50m is to be spent next year. Staffing for the Shared Island Unit will come from €1.75m to be spent on a number of new measures in the Department of the Taoiseach. It will also spend €15m on Covid-19 public communications.
12 Funds to develop products to help fight Covid-19
There’s an extra €30m for the Covid Life Sciences Products scheme which is aimed at supporting the research, development and production of medicinal products in Ireland that are used in the fight against the virus. The funding for Tánaiste Leo Varadkar’s Department goes to IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland.
13 ‘Secret Service’ gets €2m
The budget for the mysterious ‘Secret Service’ will stay at €2m this year. The funding doesn’t go to a single agency but has previously been reported to be used by the gardaí and military intelligence to fund sensitive operations.
14 Funding for Centenarian’s Bounty stays the same
Estimated spending on Centenarian’s Bounty – the €2,540 payment people get when they turn 100 along with a letter from the President – is usually increased every year. The full fund has not been used for at least the last two years. The funding for next , €1.544m, stays the same as the 2020 estimate. This would provide for payments to around 600 people turning 100 next year.
15 Plans to track sheep
Some of the Department of Agriculture’s funding will go towards using electronic identification of “five million sheep movements from approximately 40,000 farms” per year. It’s not about counting sheep, but rather to support food traceability efforts.