Pressure is weighing on the 26-County government to leave the stage this week as a team of economists from the International Monetary Fund arrived in Dublin to begin planning massive cutbacks in government spending.
The cuts are to be demanded by the IMF and European Central Bank officials as a pre-condition for providing the cash-strapped State with up to a hundred billion euro in financial aid.
Following a week of spin, dissemination, riddles and outright lies, Taoiseach Brian Cowen has finally admitted that the 26 County state is in need of outside assistance.
And in an apparent attempt to regain the initiative, the coalition government said this [Friday] evening that it is to announce early next week its long heralded, four-year austerity plan to save 15 billion euro.
But the arrival of the notorious IMF, infamous for extracting its debts from third world nations, has triggered a strong reaction which could potentially topple Cowen’s renegade regime before the cuts take effect.
Much of the shock and anger has been directed at the Fianna Fail/Green Party government for allowing the state’s sovereignty to be compromised by outside economic interests. That anger has been reflected in unusually hostile questioning of government ministers in the state-owned radio and television and an extraodinary burst of 26-County patriotism in the establishment print media.
On Thursday night, Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Pat Rabbitte was allowed to publicly berate Fianna Fail minister Pat Carey with a stream of invective on RTE television.
Cowen has been repeatedly forced to deny that the has brought humiliation and shame upon the state, while the normally anti-nationalist Irish Times asked in an editorial “whether this is what the men of 1916 died for: a bailout from the German chancellor with a few shillings of sympathy from the British chancellor on the side”.
Despite the coalition’s record unpopularity, it retains a slim working majority in the Dublin parliament and could yet succeed in passing a planned budget on December 7. However, confusion remains as to the true nature of the state’s financial problems and the so-called ‘poker game’ which Cowen’s Ministers are reported to be playing with the IMF.
In recent years, the IMF has dictated policy to nations such as Latvia where there was a 30% cut in public service jobs and 17 hospitals closed; Greece with massive wage cuts and job losses and riots on the streets; Iceland with savage cuts in health spending, widespread repossessions and evictions; and Ukraine with closed hospitals, pension cuts and unemployment doubled.
With the Irish banking system currently experiencing a run on deposits, reports today claimed the IMF has now given the coalition just three weeks to implement savage public spending cuts in return for averting their collapse. Meanwhile, the government appears convinced that once the detail of its voluminous four-year plan is revealed next week, interest rates on Irish debt will fall to a workable level and its hand with the IMF will be strengthened.
Sinn Fein Dail leader Caoimhghin O Caolain today called on Brian Cowen and the coalition to resign in shame at the economic disaster they have wrought on the Irish people.
“This country is facing one of the greatest crises in our history and we have a Taoiseach and a Cabinet who spent the last week trying to deceive the Irish people. The Taoiseach and his Fianna Fail/Green Government should resign in shame.
“The intervention of the IMF is a disaster for Ireland, brought about directly by the scandalous policies of this Government. An EU/IMF bailout will not be a bailout for the Irish people. It will be a further bailout for the banks but the Irish people will have to pay the price.
He said the reality was that the IMF “dictates policy across a whole range of areas. This will mean even more savage cuts to health and education, public service jobs and social welfare as well as tax increases for the lower paid and the selling off of State assets.
“The tragedy is this need not have happened. If the Government had burned the bondholders, set up a State bank and pursued a real plan for economic recovery there would be no call for any such bailout.
“It can still be avoided.”