Tens-of-thousands of protesters marched through the streets of Dublin Saturday to express their anger at the government's handling of the country's financial crisis and its budget-cutting austerity solution.
The demonstration, organized by Ireland's trade unions, is the biggest yet since the country's economic woes became apparent.
Among those in the crowd were people from all walks of life, united in their condemnation of the government and wary of the looming European Union-International Monetary Fund bailout, which was brought on by years of reckless bank lending that turned bad after a property bubble burst.
"I am very angry and very upset. I am very sad about what has happened to our country, very worried about my grandchildren, just everything is collapsing," said one protester. ""We are protesting against the huge debts that are being imposed on us now…I do not know when we are ever going to come out of this, which is why I am basically here."
Phil McFadden is President of the Dublin Council of Trade Unions and was an organizer. "We were fairly much aware that there could have been problems today and we are glad that it passed off peacefully," he said.
Unions represent roughly a third of Ireland's workforce.
A number of speakers rallied the large crowd on O'Connell Street. The general theme was one of fairness, mindful that many citizens were already struggling with reduced wages and rising bills.
It was the first major demonstration since the country opened negotiations with EU and IMF representatives on a likely $113 billion loan to save the country from bankruptcy. Irish media have been reporting that the interest rate of the bailout will be somewhere between six- and seven percent, a figure viewed as too high by many in the country.
In conjunction with loan rescue, the government of Brian Cowen has formulated a four-year austerity plan that includes tax hikes and budget cuts. The details are to be published on December seventh.
European finance officials are finalizing the Irish agreement this weekend and they hope to announce its specifics on Sunday.