“No one will be sheltered from austerity” – that was the message from Ireland’s prime minister as he unveiled a four-year financial plan of cuts in return for an 85 billion euro bailout.
But Brian Cowen’s government is deeply unpopular and close to collapse due to widespread anger felt at his handling of the deficit crisis.
The plan includes thousands of public sector job cuts and tax rises which ordinary people are blaming on the government and the greed of the banks.
The European Commissioner for Monetary Affairs, Olli Rehn, compared Ireland with another struggling eurozone member, Portugal.
“Ireland has a very fundamental problem of the nerve system of the whole national economy, ie the banking system, the banking sector. In Portugal the problem is there has been relatively low growth but the country is taking very bold and determined steps in order to stabilise its public finances.”
But those on the receiving end of Portugal’s bold steps are public sector workers who yesterday formed the core of the country’s biggest general strike in 20 years.
The government is under union pressure to scrap its austerity measures while jittery financial markets are laying bets Lisbon is the next eurozone member to go cap in hand to Brussels.