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Irish Unions Protesting Government’s Planned Austerity Measures

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions, a workers umbrella organization, is marching in Dublin today against a 15 billion-euro ($20 billion) austerity package aimed at cutting the government’s budget deficit.

The protest may attract more than 50,000 people, according to the Irish Times. The march begins about noon and will wind its way through the city, concluding in front of the city’s General Post Office on O’Connell Street, the union group said.

Prime Minister Brian Cowen said on Nov. 24 that the government is in talks with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund about an 85 billion-euro rescue package to shore up the nation’s banks and reduce the budget deficit. The government will cut spending by about 20 percent and raise taxes over the next four years to cut the deficit to 3 percent by 2014, from 32 percent this year when bank costs are included, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said the same day.

“This is the result of allowing speculators, bankers and developers to run riot, pillaging and ruining our economy,” ICTU President Jack O’Connor, said in a statement on the organization’s website. “The EU is insisting on reduction of the gap between our state revenue and spending to 3 percent of GDP by 2014. This is a virtually impossible target because it restricts the capacity for growth.”

Economy Contracts

Ireland’s economy unexpectedly shrank in the second quarter as consumers cut spending and a rise in imports outweighed an increase in exports. Gross domestic product fell 1.2 percent, after expanding 2.2 percent in previous quarter, the Central Statistics Office said Sept. 23.

The government may have to pay an interest rate of 6.7 percent for bailout loans, Dublin-based broadcaster RTE said yesterday, without citing anyone. The average interest rate on Ireland’s bailout from the IMF and the EU will be about 5.5 percent, the Irish Times reported today, citing an unidentified person.

“We will maintain a highly visible presence along the route of the march,” the Police’s Chief Superintendent Michael O’Sullivan said in statement yesterday on the police’s website.

The police have clashed with protestors on two occasions in Dublin this month, including on Nov. 3, when riot police helped remove student protestors from Ireland’s Finance Ministry.

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