The European Union urged Ireland on Tuesday to adopt an austerity budget on time to unlock promised EU/IMF funding, responding to a deepening political crisis that threatens to derail the financial rescue.
Dublin’s government is on a knife-edge. Damaged Prime Minister Brian Cowen has rebuffed calls for a snap election and insisted the budget would go ahead as planned on December 7 in the national interest before he calls an early poll.
But opposition parties, demanding an immediate dissolution of parliament, refused to give assurances they would support the budget or abstain to let it pass, putting its passage in doubt.
“Stability is important,” European Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn told reporters after meeting Irish members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.
“We don’t have a position on the domestic democratic politics of Ireland but it is essential that the budget will be adopted in time and we will be able to conclude the negotiations on the EU-IMF program in time.”
On Tuesday, one of the country’s smaller political parties, leftist Sinn Fein, submitted a motion of no confidence in Cowen, although it is unlikely to be debated or put to a vote because the party lacks the required 12 signatories.
Trade unions have warned that the austerity plan could provoke civil unrest: a student demonstration over planned fee increases turned violent this month, and unions have organized a march to protest at the planned measures on Saturday in Dublin. Tens of thousands are expected to turn up.
Greece, the first country to be bailed out by the euro zone and the International Monetary Fund earlier this year and which endured months of social unrest, won a vote of confidence from EU and IMF inspectors on Tuesday after promising extra measures to shore up its ailing finances.