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Nearly 100,000 protest state cutbacks in Ireland

Video by Marian HENBEST , Pauline GODART

Latest update : 2009-02-23

Protests against public sector cutbacks gathered nearly 100,000 people in Dublin on Saturday. Ireland's national 2009 budget shortfall will be the worst breach of EU budget limits in the euro zone.

Nearly 100,000 people marched through Dublin on Saturday to protest at government cutbacks in the face of a deepening recession and bailouts for the banks.

Ireland’s Prime Minister Brian Cowen is under pressure from Brussels and ratings agencies to squeeze a ballooning budget deficit, but plans to introduce a pension levy on public sector workers and freeze their pay has hammered his approval ratings and those of his party to record lows.

In a statement ahead of the march, the government said the measures were necessary to show international investors that Ireland was tackling its finances.

Even with spending cuts and tax hikes, the budget shortfall is forecast to hit 9.5 percent of gross domestic product this year, the worst breach of EU budget limits in the euro zone.


“Failure to show that credible start means that we impact directly and severely on our international reputation among investors and, in particular, on our capacity to raise funds and on the direct cost of servicing the borrowing which we are able to undertake,” the government said.


But in Dublin, a crowd estimated by police to be between 85,000 and 100,000 people, accused the government of leaving teachers, nurses, civil servants and construction workers with the bill for Ireland’s economic woes and letting banks and property developers off the hook.


“My family will be down 500 euros ($628.8) a month because my husband and I both work in the public sector,” said Sheila O’Shea, a primary school teacher who was also protesting at education cuts that have hit classes for special needs children.

“There is absolute burning vitriol that we feel at the savage way they have hit the most vulnerable in society.”

Posters reflected the sentiment with slogans such as “You made the most. Pay the most!” and “We won’t pay for the greed of the super rich”.

Date created : 2009-02-21