27 Nov 2010

Thousands protest against Ireland austerity cuts

More than 50,000 people have taken to the streets of Dublin to protest against the spending cuts and tax increases the Irish government is planning to introduce.

The march, which has been organised by Ireland’s trade unions, started at midday on the south quays and will progress to the General Post Office building on O’Connell Street – the headquarters of a nationalist uprising against British rule in 1916.

Police say 50,000 protesters joined the march, with organisers putting the total at more than double that.

The Irish Congress of Trades Unions have organised the march because they believe the austerity measures the Irish government is proposing are too harsh.

The ICTU said: “If they go ahead with their plans, they will do irreparable damage and turn this country into a social and economic wasteland.”

Organisers said they expected the protests to be peaceful.

From crash to cuts: find out more about the Ireland bailout with the Channel 4 News special report.
Protester in Ireland. Up to 50,000 people took to the streets of Dublin to protest agains planned austerity cuts (credit:Reuters)

The march is the first protest of its size since Ireland asked the European Union and the International Monetary Fund for financial assistance, likely to be an 85 bn euro loan.

As part of the negotiations of the bailout, Ireland published plans to slash 15bn euro from its deficit over four years. The plans are due to be included in the country’s budget on 7 December.

The protests follow a difficult week for Taoiseach Brian Cowen, as splits in the coalition have threatened to jeopardise the budget.

Mr Cowen admits that the cuts will lower the living standards of all the country’s residents, but insists there is no choice as Ireland’s deficit is the highest in Europe at 32 per cent of GDP.

Today, the Irish media were also reporting that the loan to Ireland could incur interest rates of up to 6.7 per cent, higher than the 5.2 per cent given to Greece’s bailout in May.

Follow Economics Editor Faisal Islam's coverage of the Ireland debt crisis here.