Last week saw the announcement of bumper receipts from taxes on corporate profits for the month of November.

The strong figures will not have surprised readers of the Irish Farmers Journal, since the possibility was flagged in these pages on 16 November and several weeks earlier by UCC economist Seamus Coffey in a blog post.

Predictions of monthly tax yields are a mug’s game given the volatility of the numbers, but the Government, media and various accountancy firms had all issued dark warnings of a large dip in revenue. It did not happen.

The tax bonanza appears to be continuing for now – the figures were a November record – but it will end in due course and the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council (IFAC) has earned a public rebuke from Finance Minister Michael McGrath.

Its report criticises long-term spending commitments based on transitory revenues, a criticism well inside its statutory remit, and the Government’s rebuke is not credible.

The Government has been announcing extra capital allocations and they appear to have abandoned any pretence that State-funded projects need to be evaluated transparently as required by the Public Spending Code.


Politicians of all parties have a weakness for flagship local schemes and there will be more announcements as the general election looms. None of the recent crop have been subjected to an independent evaluation.

The Public Spending Code has never been enshrined in statute law and compliance is voluntary. Moreover, the inevitable cost over-run on the National Children’s Hospital has not been fully allowed for in the capital budget, and several other projects are likely to cost more than has been acknowledged.

The current budget for the Department of Health will also over-shoot. Even with the continuing buoyancy in corporation tax, the prospective budget surplus is being spent on tax giveaways and on current and capital programmes.

Airports and stadiums are favourites with local politicians. Regional airports at Galway and Sligo have been closed to traffic for many years since there were no flights – the airlines withdrew all services despite receiving operating subsidies.

There have been no passengers at Waterford either – the last commercial flight was in 2016, but the airport was never formally closed. A longer runway is now planned and the Government has pledged support in the absence of any commitment from airlines.

GAA funding

Last week also saw announcements of grant aid for several Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) stadiums and for the Royal Dublin Society venue in Ballsbridge.

The amounts are modest, but there is potential for an explosion in stadium-building at public expense.

A recent report from the Football Association of Ireland demanded over €800m in Government money, including stadium improvements at every League of Ireland ground. There are 20, only one of which – Tallaght Stadium, the home of Shamrock Rovers – is a comfortable modern venue.

The lucky GAA county boards include Kildare and Meath for their projects at Newbridge and Navan.

Neither county has enjoyed success in Gaelic football in recent times and neither county has ever had a strong hurling team. Both are well connected to the under-utilised Croke Park stadium in Dublin, less than an hour away in both cases. No business case has been presented for these stadium expansions and they will not be well-utilised.

A recent report from the Football Association of Ireland demanded over €800m in Government money

Nor will several other GAA county grounds, where expansions are on the agenda. One of these, the west Belfast home of the Antrim county board at Casement Park, is not even in the jurisdiction, but will nonetheless enjoy Irish Exchequer support, according to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Antrim has successful teams in neither Gaelic football nor hurling.

The venue at the RDS in Ballsbridge is the home of the Horse Show for one week a year, and for about a dozen home games of the Leinster rugby team, with the rest at the nearby Aviva.

It is remarkable that public funds have been either sought or offered, without any discussion of ground-sharing.

Is the Government really going to fund a new GAA stadium for every county in Ireland and a new facility for every soccer club?

Will Dalymount Park, home of Bohemians on Dublin’s north-side, and Shelbourne’s Tolka Park, a brisk 20 minutes away, both get Exchequer money when the RDS venue is clearly under-utilised?

The Louth GAA board is planning a big expansion on the east-side of Dundalk, a few kilometres from the dilapidated Oriel Park, home of the more successful Dundalk soccer team which has no funds for an overdue re-build.

The many fine new stadiums constructed in England in recent decades are often shared by soccer and rugby teams, and by women’s teams, ensuring value for money on capital expenditure.

Surely, the Irish Government should insist on sensible ground-sharing schemes within and between the various sports. How many stadiums are really needed, or is it one for everybody in the audience?