Irish angry, stunned over political turmoil

By Jodie Ginsberg and Lorraine Turner

DUBLIN (BestGrowthStock) – Victims of an economic train wreck, the Irish people are now suffering political whiplash too.

The humiliating weekend news that the former Celtic tiger economy was seeking a rescue package from the European Union and International Monetary Fund was followed on Monday by the unraveling of the government coalition as the junior partner, the Greens, called for a January election.

Fury over the authorities’ handling of the crisis was tinged with bewilderment as people watched their political leaders throw the bailout, and a crucial emergency budget, into doubt.

“There has never been such a political shambles in the history of the State,” Irish Times columnist Stephen Collins wrote on Tuesday. “The coalition crumbling just days before the publication of a four-year budgetary strategy has added a whole new layer of uncertainty to an already volatile situation.”

Most commentators felt Prime Minister Brian Cowen had done the right thing in refusing to call a snap election and insisting the 2011 budget – due on December 7 – be passed first.

“It is absolutely vital for the country, for every citizen, for children yet unborn, that the budget is adopted,” the Irish Independent wrote in an editorial. “At a time like this, any jockeying for party or personal advantage is simply outrageous.”

Schoolteacher Gerald Murphy, 39, agreed. “I don’t think they should call an election before the budget because the whole basis of the IMF coming in would be undermined,” he told Reuters.

“BIFFO” MUST GO

But the view that Cowen’s ruling Fianna Fail party must go as soon as possible after that was almost universal.

Cowen — known as “Biffo” — is deeply unpopular in Ireland. As finance minister, he presided over the final years of the Irish boom. A subsequent collapse in the country’s property and construction sectors exposed risky lending by Irish banks and brought the banking sector close to collapse.

“It’s the end of the day for him, but ultimately it’s his decision. (However) the Irish people would feel better if he left,” said Charlotte, 21, a student in Dublin.

The Irish Sun featured a picture of Cowen as a green duck on Tuesday with the comment “Lame Duck Won’t Fly.”

“Fianna Fail don’t get it — their disastrous policies have condemned Ireland to ruin. They must be booted out of office as soon as possible,” The Irish Sun newspaper wrote.

“There is enormous anger out there… Brian Cowen and his shameless party will be the target of their fury.”

Businesses are making capital out of the political crisis — one website is offering ‘Fianna Failed’ merchandise. Another company is selling boxer shorts and g-strings sporting the slogan: “I’d rather be screwed by the IMF.” (Editing by Carmel Crimmins and Mark Trevelyan)

Irish angry, stunned over political turmoil