Nine days from now, Brian Lenihan will stand before the Dáil and announce the government’s latest budget.

The cabinet has made quite display of how seriously they take the crisis in public finances, even holding a meeting on a Sunday.

Things are so bad they’ve even given up their weekends, you see.

The cabinet still has to sort out some things – exactly how much to cut here, just how much to increase a levy there – but some decisions have already been made.

Rates are going to make a comeback, if not next week then in October.

Residential property taxes were abolished in 1977, and ever since, local government in Ireland has declined in importance. Without the ability to raise taxes to fund its spending plans, councils were at the mercy of central government, which suited central government just fine.

Of course, it won’t be called rates. Community charge has a nice ring to it, but the British already use that label, so perhaps not.

Brian Cowen has a fondness for the Irish language, so perhaps Cáin Mheitheal.

But whatever they call it, I doubt central government is likely to give local councils the power to keep the money.

By Gerard Cunningham

Gerard Cunningham occupies his time working as a journalist, writer, sub-editor, blogger and podcaster, yet still finds himself underemployed.