It's a far cry from the burning cars and trashed streets that savage austerity measures have produced in Greece and Spain.
But long-suffering Irish citizens may finally be reaching their limit. A deadline for paying a new €100 property tax has just passed, with barely half of households complying. And if the 5,000 people who turned out for a rowdy protest march in Dublin over the weekend is any indication, Irish politicians pushing for more cuts and higher taxes to satisfy their creditors in Brussels may have a hard go of it.
'Enough is enough!'
Ireland, one of the first European economies to tank during the financial crisis, has long been held up as the austerity poster-child for other European countries forced to beg for bailouts. While outraged citizens of Portugal, Greece, Italy and Spain have rioted against harsh spending cuts and tax rises, by and large the Irish have gone along with the tough programme imposed by the “troika” – the European Central Bank, the European Commission, and the International Monetary Fund.
This new uprising must have Irish leaders worried. They need to get voters to approve a 31 May referendum on the new “fiscal compact” recently passed by EU leaders to enforce budget discipline across Europe. The last thing they want is Irish citizens questioning whether all this pain is worth it, to pay off the debts of the bankers, politicians and high-rolling property developers who crashed their economy.
Recovery through strangulation?
EU officials and many economists say Ireland has to stick with at least another six years of belt-tightening to pay off the €90bn it borrowed to bail out its failing banks. Failure to stick with the programme would send the country spiralling back into insolvency.
But a growing number of citizens, backed by other economists, say the cuts and new taxes are strangling the growth Ireland needs to get out of its mess. Making working people pay for the excesses of the elite is not only unfair, they say, it's draining the country of resources for health, education and other necessities.
Further reading: The Financial Times explains Ireland's financial crisis in depth.