Anger has been vented outside the Irish parliament in Dublin against the government’s requst for an EU-IMF financial bailout. Demonstrators called for the resignation of Prime Minister Brian Cowen and tried to force their way through the gates.
But there is also political drama, with observers saying the government is reaching breaking point.
Junior coalition partner the Green Party says it will support the government until a new budget and the rescue plan are in place, but will then quit
the coalition. It has called for a general election in January.
Green Party leader John Gormley said: “We can no longer participate in government after we have completed those tasks – and I’ve outlined the tasks this morning: passing the budget, the four-year plan, and discussions with the EU. That’s very important that we do that in the national interest.”
The bailout is likely to be worth around 80 billion euros, to shore up the country’s finances.
Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said: “As far as the government is concerned, all our energies must now be focused on the passing of this budget. That’s what’s vital and in the national interest.”
But there are warnings of a political crisis, with reports that two independent MPs are considering withholding their support for the budget.
In an interview with euronews, Brian Lucey from the School of Business at Trinity College Dublin said: “It is entirely possible that if other independents pull out the Government might feel the game is up and have to go to the President to seek a dissolution of Parliament. She doesn’t have to give that, so it is entirely possible that she may say ‘no, you have to push this through’. We are in unchartered political, and therefore economic, territory here.”
The government of Brian Cowen is due to announce a severe four-year austerity package this week, but some observers say that now looks in jeopardy.