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Irish divided over bailout

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Just over 50 percent of Irish people support a multi-billion euro EU/IMF rescue package but believe the country has lost its sovereignty by accepting the external assistance, according to a poll published on Saturday. Skip related content

Ireland was forced to resort to the IMF, the European Union and European Central Bank to negotiate an 85 billion euro (£72 billion) loan after a banking sector crisis drove the economy into the ground and sent ripples across the wider euro zone.

Irish taxpayers face years of spending cuts and tax hikes, as part of a four-year austerity drive designed to squeeze 15 billion euros from the worst deficit in Europe, beginning with 2011 budget’s record package of 6 billion euros in adjustments.

When asked if they supported the bailout, 51 percent of Irish people said they welcomed it, 37 percent did not, and 12 percent did not know, an Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll showed.

Fifty-six percent of the 1,000 voters sampled said Dublin had surrendered its sovereignty by accepting the deal, while 33 percent said it had not and 11 percent had no opinion.

Brian Cowen, the most unpopular Irish prime minister in recent history, is expected to lose a general election held early next year, over his handling of the crisis.

Opinion polls indicate Cowan’s centre-right Fine Gael party will form a coalition government with the centre-left Labour after the next election, possibly in February or March.

Parliament approved the bailout on Wednesday in the face of opposition threats to renegotiate the deal, but given Ireland’s dependence on the rescue package to shore up its banks and finance its deficit, and having signed up to its tough fiscal targets, their room for manoeuvre may be limited.

Saturday’s poll showed voters who back Cowen’s Fianna Fail party were the most supportive of the bailout and a majority of them did not believe that Dublin had given up its sovereignty.

Fine Gael and Labour voters also supported the bailout, but said sovereignty had been surrendered, the Irish Times said.

Expressing disgruntlement with the severe austerity measures they will face, 68 percent of voters said they thought the December 7 budget was unfair against 27 percent who thought it was fair.

A poll held earlier this week showed support for Fianna Fail and Cowen had reached record lows, with satisfaction with the way the government is doing its job at just 8 percent.

The Irish Times said the latest poll was held on Monday and Tuesday, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.

Source: Reuters

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