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Ireland protest over harsh austerity measures -

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TRACY BOWDEN, REPORTER: In Ireland, tens of thousands marched in protest at the weekend over harsh
austerity measures in response to the country's financial meltdown.

The collapse of a property bubble has seen unemployment reach double figures and left Ireland with
massive debt and a banking system on the verge of collapse.

Despite the announcement of a European Union bailout worth more than $100 billion, there are
growing calls for the Prime Minister to stand down.

Europe correspondent Emma Alberici reports from Dublin.

BRIAN COWEN, IRISH PRIME MINISTER (Nov 21): I can confirm that the Government has today decided
that Ireland apply for financial assistance to the European Union.

JOHN GORMLEY, IRISH GREENS (Nov. 22): Well we have now reached a point where the Irish people need
political certainty to take them beyond the coming two months, so we believe it is time to fix a
date for a general election.

EMMA ALBERICI, REPORTER: It's been among the most dramatic weeks in Irish history. The country's
economy once the envy of Europe is now on international life support. The Prime Minister, busy
cutting wages and lifting taxes, is being cast as 'The Grinch Who Stole Christmas'.

ALLAN BARRETT, ECONOMIC & SOCIAL RESEARCH INSTITUTE: Given the sort of suffering that people are
now enduring through higher unemployment, wage cuts, tax increases, emigration - all the
difficulties that people are having inflicted on them, there is a sort of a clearly identifiable
group of people there who are at fault, and that is the Government.

EMMA ALBERICI: Over the past five years the Irish Government became enamoured with property,
developers were given tax breaks and banks were encouraged to hand out loans worth 100 per cent of
the price tag. Construction took over all other industries to become Ireland's number one earner.

When John Killane and his family bought into this development two hours outside Dublin, the
developers promised there'd be a children's playground and childcare centre on site. Three years
later, the builder is bankrupt and this is what they now call a ghost estate - most of the houses
aren't finished, less than half of them are occupied, there are no streetlights, the lampposts
don't have globes in them, they're not even wired up.

JOHN KILLANE: All these houses are going. They're gonna knock them down and just put grass over it.

EMMA ALBERICI: What's the idea about knocking them down?

JOHN KILLANE: Knocking them down because they can't afford to finish them.

EMMA ALBERICI: John Killane and his wife both lost their jobs earlier this year, joining an
unemployment queue that already represents 14 per cent of the workforce.

SINEAD KILLANE: I think they just got so engrossed in one thing only, was construction. Just build,
build, build. Easy money, quick money. Like, you didn't even have to have a qualification to be a
builder.

ALLAN BARRETT: Because prices were going up, people always felt that building a house to sell on
was in a sense a one-way bet, it meant then that houses were built all over the country, very, very
often in places where employment prospects were essentially zero. So again, this was just a
disaster waiting to happen.

EMMA ALBERICI: When the property bubble burst, Ireland's banks declared themselves broke. With one
in 10 families no longer able to pay mortgages on homes that were wildly overpriced, Anglo-Irish
debt is now rated at junk status.

As the Government tried to plug the hole in the bank's finances, its own budget became stretched.
According to Eurozone rules, it should be no higher than three per cent of gross domestic product,
but it's actually more than 10 times that at 32 per cent.

LOUISE O'REILLY, SERVICES, INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION: People are very, very angry
with this government. They're very angry that the eyes of the international world are focused on
our country at the moment for all of the wrong reasons.

EMMA ALBERICI: Protesters took to the streets as the Prime Minister addressed the Irish people,
first to tell them that there was no money left in the banks or the Treasury, then to tell them
that they'd each have to contribute roughly $5,000 over four years to help fix the problem.

LOUISE O'REILLY: They are allowing the most vulnerable in our society, the people on minimum wage,
the people who depend on public services, they're letting them to fend for themselves while they
move heaven and earth to protect the banks.

EMMA ALBERICI: So how did it go so wrong? Boom to bust in just three years? When Ireland joined the
European Union and then the single currency, investors' eyes were fixed on this so-called 'Celtic
Tiger'. It offered them the only English-speaking educated workforce in the Eurozone, but more
important than that, it gave them the lowest corporate tax rate in the developed world. At 12.5 per
cent, it's less than half the rate in Britain and much lower than Australia's 30 per cent.

FERGAL O'BRIEN, IRISH BUSINESS & EMPLOYERS CONFEDERATION: You're here in the heart of Dublin's
financial centre. Most of the buildings behind us, they've really been built in the last 15 or 20
years and they're now home to what are all the world's major financial services business, so most
of the top 10 major global player in financial services are all based here in Dublin.

EMMA ALBERICI: Fergal O'Brien of Ireland's chief business lobby believes it's foreign investment
like technology and financial services that will help resuscitate the Celtic Tiger, but France and
Germany say that a low corporate tax rate gives Ireland an unfair advantage. They want the
Government to lift the rate to help pay for the bailout.

FERGAL O'BRIEN: Any increase in the corporation tax rate would be completely counter-productive to
what the European Commission and the IMF are trying to do in terms of correcting the problems in
Ireland's public finances. We don't have a hold on our corporate tax revenues. We actually very
strong corporate tax revenues. Ireland will have to become a higher tax country, not in terms of
its corporate tax, but in terms of broadening its tax base, in terms of having taxes on property.

EMMA ALBERICI: Sinead and John Killane are pondering their future. They can't pay their mortgage,
but if they leave, where will they go?

JOHN KILLANE: Now, we're a nation of beggars, as far as any Irish person - any Irish people that
really sit back and think of it, they've made us a nation of beggars.

EMMA ALBERICI: The international bailout won't help families like the Killanes and it will come at
a price that some are convinced the Government won't be able to afford. The interest bill alone is
expected to cost $7 billion a year.

BRIAN COWEN: Today is about Ireland putting its best foot forward, Ireland saying, "Yes, here's
what we're prepared to do as a government and as a people to put to right the issues that have to
be put to right to give ourselves prospects and prosperity again."

EMMA ALBERICI: The Prime Minister has survived this long, but with his own backbenchers, the
Opposition and the public calling for him to go, he's unlikely to keep his job for long after the
emergency Budget is handed down next week.

TRACY BOWDEN: Emma Alberici reporting.