Negotiations on a bail-out for Ireland are stepping up a gear after Europe publicly approved the Government’s 15 billion-euro savings plan.
EU Economics Commissioner Olli Rehn gave the thumbs up to the savage four-year budget package, which will impose three billion euro social welfare cuts, axe 25,000 public jobs and hike income tax.
The plan is also believed to have the backing of the International Monetary Fund, which continues to examine how much of a bail-out the country needs – 85 billion euro (£71 billion) at the last count.
Prime minister Brian Cowen warned that no-one could be sheltered from the government’s last-gasp economic recovery plan as he clings to power.
The minimum wage will be cut by one euro to 7.65 (£6.48) and in a double-whammy, income tax bands and rates will dramatically widen and increase to raise 1.9 billion euro (£1.6 billion).
In the public services, newly-hired workers such as teachers and nurses will be pitted colleague against colleague as they start off on 10% lower wages than current state employees.
The opposition, unions and rights campaigners branded the cuts a savage attack on the most vulnerable and the working poor.
But Mr Cowen rejected claims that the draconian blueprint targeted those on the breadline and insisted those who had the most must pay the most.
Step two in securing the bailout loans will be passing the six billion euro (£5.1 billion) slash-and-burn Budget for 2011 when it is unveiled next month – a potentially difficult task for the embattled Taoiseach with his razor-thin government majority.