European Union finance ministers are meeting to discuss an 85 billion euro (£72.1 billion) bailout for the Irish economy amid signs a deal could be in place by the time markets reopen on Monday.
Chancellor George Osborne will join fellow ministers in Brussels for the hastily-arranged meeting, the day after 50,000 people marched through the streets of Dublin to protest against the country’s austerity budget.
Ireland’s communication minister Eamon Ryan said it was likely an outline agreement for the rescue deal would be concluded by Sunday night.
It is understood the final figures will be approved at a conference call of the EU finance ministers and a meeting of the Irish cabinet. But Mr Ryan rejected reports that the interest rate for a loan from the EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF) could be as high as 6.7% for nine years.
“I think that figure was inaccurate and I think it was unfortunate it went out there because I’m sure it scared a hell of a lot of people,” he said. “There are still negotiations going on on that sort of level of detail. It’s not fixed yet and we’ll have to wait and see until it’s actually done. The overall figure has to make sense for us in that we are able to pay it back.”
Transport minister Noel Dempsey said he would not speculate on how much interest would be paid for the bailout or when the deal will be finalised.
Public service workers, students and left-wing political groups marched through Dublin on Saturday under the banner of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) to demand a better and fairer way.
Thousands packed the capital’s main thoroughfare, O’Connell Street, for a mass rally outside the historic GPO – where the Proclamation of Independence was read in 1916.
About 400 activists later picketed outside the Dail where a small group threw bottles, paint and bangers during a tense stand-off with police.
A Garda spokesman said the protest passed peacefully, with just one man arrested and released.