News / Europe

Ireland Faces Political Turmoil After Bailout Decision

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen reacts during a press conference at government buildings in Dublin, Ireland, regarding a massive EU-IMF bailout, 22 Nov 2010
Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen reacts during a press conference at government buildings in Dublin, Ireland, regarding a massive EU-IMF bailout, 22 Nov 2010

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The Irish government may be heading towards collapse after agreeing to a bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Prime Minister Brian Cowen said he will call an election for early next year, but some politicians in Ireland say that's not soon enough.

Ireland's Prime Minister Brian Cowen is facing outrage over how he has handled Ireland's economic and banking crisis. On Sunday his government requested international funding set to be worth around $100 billion to steer Ireland clear from economic collapse.

Budget reductions are tied to the bailout. This week Mr. Cowen's government is to publish a four-year plan that will cut around $20 billion from the country's deficit. And early next month the 2011 budget is to be unveiled.

The junior party in Mr. Cowen's coalition government said it will withdraw its support for the government once that budget is passed.

Mr. Cowen said he will not call an election until Ireland's finances are in order.

"We believe that there is a clear duty on all members of Dail Eiereann [Irish parliament] to facilitate the passage of these measures in the uniquely serious circumstances in which we find ourselves," said Cowen. "The political and financial stability of the state requires no less. It is my intention at the conclusion of this budgetary process, with the enactment of the necessary legislation in the new year."

But for some politicians in Ireland, that's not soon enough. On Tuesday, four lawmakers from one of Ireland's smaller political parties tabled a motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister.

Richard Boyd Barrett is a political activist with the Ireland-based group People Before Profit. He said Mr. Cowen should go now.

"It is outrageous that they're talking about having an election after they have done the deal with the IMF and tied the country into a four-year austerity plan, which will essentially tie the hands of any incoming government," said Boyd Barrett. "So of course he should step down immediately, we should have an election immediately before any deal is done with the IMF or any budget is delivered."

The government is expected to cut the minimum wage and social welfare spending, among other measures.

Boyd Barrett said those cuts are going to hurt Ireland's most vulnerable citizens. And, he said, they're not the ones who should be paying out.

"I think the Irish people are being misled about the nature of the bailout. They are being told that it's a bailout of the Irish people. In reality it's a bailout of the French banks, the German banks, the British banks, and our own banks. And ordinary people in this country - working people, pensioners, students, the vulnerable in our society - are being asked to pick up the gambling debts of the international financial system in Europe and that's absolutely outrageous and unacceptable."

Ireland is the second euro zone country to receive a bailout in just six months. Earlier this year Greece was awarded a $110 billion loan from the European Union and the IMF. On Tuesday it was approved for a third round of funding, although auditors said more work needs to be done to sort out public finances, including lowering wages and making the healthcare system more efficient.

In Ireland, Unions have organized a march on Saturday to protest the planned economic measures. An estimated 80,000 people are expected to turn up.

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