About 50,000 people marched in Dublin to protest the Irish government’s 15 billion-euro ($20 billion) austerity measures aimed at cutting the budget deficit.
Today’s march was organized by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, an umbrella organization for labor groups. The ICTU general secretary, David Begg, said the crowd exceeded 100,000 people, compared with 50,000 estimated by police.
Ireland’s government is talks with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund for an 85 billion-euro rescue package as it seeks to shore up its banks and narrow the deficit. Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said Nov. 24 that the government will cut spending by about 20 percent and raise taxes over the next four years to reduce the gap to 3 percent of the economy by 2014, from 32 percent this year when bank costs are included.
ICTU President Jack O’Connor, addressing protesters in the city center, said the country had been brought “to its knees” by the government and bankers. “Several generations of Irish men and women” will have to foot the bill, he said.
Ireland’s economy unexpectedly shrank in the second quarter as consumers spent less and an increase in imports outweighed rising exports. Gross domestic product fell 1.2 percent after expanding 2.2 percent in previous quarter, the Central Statistics Office said on Sept. 23.
A rescue of Anglo Irish Bank Corp., which the government nationalized in January 2009, may cost as much as 34.3 billion euros, Lenihan said Sept. 30.
Police have a “highly visible presence along the route of the march” and are prepared should anyone try to “exploit such events for their own ends,” Police Chief Superintendent Michael O’Sullivan said in statement yesterday.
Police have clashed with protesters in Dublin twice this month. Riot officers helped remove student demonstrators from the Finance Ministry on Nov. 3 and they ejected activists who entered the grounds of the prime minister’s offices on Nov. 22.
“The EU is insisting on reduction of the gap between our state revenue and spending to 3 percent of GDP by 2014,” O’Connor said in a statement on the union’s website calling for people to join the march. “This is a virtually impossible target because it restricts the capacity for growth.”