Belfast Telegraph

Country awaits 'most feared budget'

Ireland is bracing itself for the most feared budget in the state's history as the Government put the final touches to the 6 billion euro cost-cutting plan.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan is widely expected to wield the axe on social welfare, including jobseekers and child benefit, in a bid to cut public spending by 4.5 billion euro.

Speculation has mounted that public sector wages will be capped and Ministers' salaries cut as the Government takes on a four-year battle to restore the state's crippled finances.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen's shaky coalition will try to impose the cuts with only a two-seat majority.

But the embattled Government received a boost after an independent TD, whose support is crucial, said he would back the cuts.

Michael Lowry, Tipperary North TD, said he would put the country first despite a potential backlash from his constituents.

"This has been a difficult decision for me," he said.

"This budget for the first time in 15 years is about not the distribution of surpluses, not the distribution of good news, this is about the distribution of pain.

"This budget is going to be harsh, it's going to be extremely difficult, people will be angry and people will be annoyed that they have to pay the price for the recklessness in particular of our banking institutions."

Mr Lowry said that if the country was to survive tough decisions would have to be made.

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