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Ireland

Thousands protest in Dublin against austerity measures, bailout

Reuters/Cathal McNaughton
6 min

Thousands of people gathered in Dublin Saturday for protests against the government’s implementation of harsh austerity measures needed to receive an 85 billion euro bailout from the EU and the IMF. Police said they expected about 50,000 people to take part in a march, which should put more pressure on Prime Minister Brian Cowen’s already weakened coalition government.

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“There is a feeling of national depression at the fact that first of all that those [austerity] measures are necessary, but also at the loss of independence represented by the fact that Cowan’s government had to go to the IMF and the European Union to seek a bailout,” explained RFI’s correspondent in Dublin, Cuthel MacCoil.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to take to the streets to protest a four-year, 15 billion euro austerity plan that trade unions say is too much.

Cuthel MacCoil, correspondent, Dublin, Ireland

“We’ve had three austerity budgets so far, and all they have succeeded in doing is pushing up the deficit, and pushing up unemployment,” Macdara Doyle of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, which is organising Saturday’s march, told RFI.

He says the march is the last chance for people to speak up before the budget is voted on 7 December.

“We’ve said to people that it’s probably their last chance to influence the shape of the next budget… so it’s important they turn out and make their voices heard,” he said.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

EU finance ministers are due to meet in Brussels on Sunday to decide on the actual amount of the bailout, which Ireland needs to keep its economy from collapsing under massive debt - a bailout that MacCoil says appears to be inevitable.

“I think the hard fact is, for the moment at least, a deal has to be done. A bailout has to be arranged within days, and the terms of that are going to be extremely severe,” he said.

Cownen has been called on by the opposition to quit his post as Prime Minister, something he as refused to do, at least until the austerity package and budget are passed on 7 December, as they are pre-conditions for the bailout.

On Friday, his Fianna Fail party lost its seat in Donegal in a by-election, something that MacCoil says is an indication of his growing unpopularity.

“The result of the bi-election could not have been worse for the coalition government… That result confirmed what almost every political observer assumes, is that Cowan’s party is deeply unpopular because of the financial and economic crisis that Ireland had entered during his term as Prime Minister, and that his party is heading to oblivion in the next general election.”

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