Full of confidence after the yes vote in the same sex marriage referendum, the Irish government is now totally concentrated on pulling off what would be the biggest comeback since Lazarus: Getting itself re-elected in the next general election.
Up to very recently that would have seemed impossible thanks to the last few years of austerity, including the water charges debacle and other deeply unpopular measures.
But suddenly there is hope. There is a real sense that the impossible might just be possible after all.
The economy is recovering, albeit slowly. Unemployment is falling steadily, with the latest figures showing that it is now just below the psychologically important 10 percent mark, having been up around 15 percent not to long ago. And all the indicators are predicting that growth here, which is already the strongest in the EU, will continue at an impressive level over the medium term.
The only niggle in this rosy picture, from the government's point of view, is that the benefits of the recovery are a bit slow percolating down into individual pockets.
We are now a maximum of 10 months away from the next election, which has to be held by April 2016. To avoid last minute banana skins it would be a risky strategy for the government to run the absolute full term.
So that means an election in November after the budget in October, or at the latest just after Christmas, which leaves very little time for the government to convince the electorate that, despite all the hardship, it deserves a second term in office.
The result is that the government has decided to sweeten the pie up front instead of waiting for the payback from economic recovery to filter down to individual workers. Effectively it is going to buy its way back into power.
This became clear last week when the government took the first big step in trying to buy re-election with a €566 million two-year pay deal for the country's 290,000 state workers, or public servants as we call them over here. These are the teachers, nurses, police, army, judges, local services, road sweepers and all the other workers on the state payroll who keep the country going as a functioning society.
As the calculatedly simple government statements explained last week, this amounts to €2,000 extra in the pocket for every state worker over the next two years. The neat figure was made for headlines and all the papers obliged, which is exactly what the government had wanted.
It was the perfect kick off to their re-election plan, getting the large number of state workers on side. It still has to be discussed and formally accepted, of course, but it was clear from the smiles on the faces of union leaders that this is a done deal.
Attention will now turn to what the government will do to sweeten the 1,600,000 workers in the private sector here, the people in the "real economy" where if the company you work for goes bust you are out of a job. For private sector workers there is none of the security that state workers have because the state can borrow endlessly to keep the show on the road.
The speculation is that the upcoming budget this October -- the budget for 2016 -- will see significant income tax cuts, including cuts in the hated Universal Social Charge (USC), one of the additional levies on earnings here supposedly used to fund health and welfare spending but which is in reality just an extra income tax. It's part of the reason Irish workers reach a marginal rate of income tax of over 50 percent when their earnings pass €33,800, despite us supposedly having a top rate of tax of 40 percent.
Of course any income tax reduction will also apply to state sector workers. So they are likely, once again, to win on the double. This hardly seems fair but, hey, what has that got to do with anything when there is an election to be bought?
The Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin was the lead on the government's side in the negotiations. So it may not be that surprising that the deal was done so quickly and so much in favor of the state workers since he is a senior Labour minister and the Labour Party desperately needs the support of all these workers in the election if it is to get anywhere.
The most recent opinion poll, which was in The Sunday Business Post last weekend, does show the slow recovery in support for both government parties, Fine Gael and Labor, continuing. Fine Gael went up three points to 28 percent and Labour went up two points to 10 percent -- the highest level of support both parties have had in a year.
Support for Sinn Fein fell one point to 21 percent and Fianna Fail was unchanged at 19 percent, not good news for Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin who continues to be under pressure since the party needs to be doing much better at this stage if they are to have any hope of leading the next government.
While this was encouraging news for the government parties, it is still some way from ensuring their return to power, even with the support of center ground independents. Hence the pressing need to accelerate their standing in the polls by bribing the voters.
Howlin tried to justify the €566 million state sector pay giveaway last week by making a vague reference to recent pay increases in the private sector. The reason he was so vague is that there have been only a few of these, mainly in sectors like IT where demand for high tech workers is strong.
The reality is that in most companies and small businesses across the private sector there has been no pay increases, firms are still getting back on their feet and workers are happy just to have a job.
The other justification put forward for the state sector deal was that it was not a pay increase but "pay restoration,” giving back some of the cuts that were made in state workers' pay in the past few years as the government implemented its program to get spending under control.
The problem with that explanation is that there were similar or much greater cuts in pay in the private sector, and no one is giving any of that money back to employees. Added to that is the fact that many private employees lost their jobs, since they did not have the job security that is one of the great perks of a state sector job here.
But the worst aspect of the deal last week is that around half of the money will come from the removal of part of the pension levies imposed on state sector workers which was an effective pay cut for them. But even with the levies, state sector workers only pay a fraction of the cost of their gold plated pensions, which are still around half of salary and guaranteed for life.
The vast majority of private sector workers, in contrast, saw their pensions badly hit by the bust. Almost all guaranteed half-final-salary pensions in the private sector are now gone.
And many companies -- the newspaper industry is one example -- have had to make cuts of up to 40 percent in the pensions they are paying out to keep their schemes going. Howlin had nothing to say about them last week.
The worst example of the unfairness of last week's deal, however, was the situation of people with private pension funds, typically small business people and trades people like plumbers or electricians who pay into their own private pension fund every year. Past governments have supported this with a tax break on what you pay in to encourage self-employed people to plan for retirement.
But a few years ago as part of austerity, the present government put a levy on these funds, literally stealing money out of them, even if it was legal. By last year that had raised €2 billion, a colossal sum. It will finally be phased out altogether in the next budget.
Since the state sector pension levy is being reduced/eventually removed will that mean these self employed workers in the private sector will get the money taken from their pension funds back as well?
Not a hope, because they are not a coherent voting group with unions to push their case. Needless to say Howlin had nothing to say about that either.
The final justification for last week's vote buying deal was that it would be dependent on continuing change and increased efficiency in the state sector, to bring better and cheaper services to the public. That's what they always say, of course, and it is never delivered to any significant degree.
What those who make this argument fail to appreciate is that change, up-skilling and increased efficiency are the norm in the private sector these days (again the newspaper industry is an example). You don't get paid for this in the private sector, your company gets to survive and your reward is that you get to keep your job.
On all levels, therefore, this deal stinks. It is a vote buying exercise pure and simple.
And let us remember that it will be paid for by more borrowed money, since we still have one of the highest national debt levels in the EU and are still a few years away from having an annual budget surplus to start paying that debt mountain down. The money for this deal will have to be paid back eventually by all taxpayers.
More than anything, this deal is a return to the old "benchmarking" days when state workers got huge pay increases leading up to and during the boom supposedly to keep them in line with the private sector.
In fact it meant they ended up being the highest paid state workers in Europe. They only gave some of the money back when the state went bust, and these days they are earning about one-third more than workers in the private sector even though the state went bust.
There are two good things to say about this deal. Firstly, since it is a flat increase rather than a percentage, lower paid state workers will benefit most.
The other thing is that if the government does a similar giveaway for private sector workers in the budget in October and it works, they might, just might, manage to get re-elected. We can't afford it, of course, but they could then quietly claw it back in the following couple of years.
It would certainly be better than the alternative, a government with the discredited Fianna Fail and the blood-tainted, untrustworthy Sinn Fein.
Surely the most nauseating sight of the past few weeks was the picture of Gerry Adams and Panti Bliss on a referendum platform together "celebrating the new Ireland." Anything is better than that.