Lower growth raises recession fears
Ireland is staring down the barrel of another recession after the Central Bank more than halved forecasts for economic growth.
Opposition politicians claimed a mini-budget was on the cards after the dramatic reassessment warned the economy would expand by just 0.5% in 2012 rather than previous estimates of 1.8%.
The Central Bank blamed a combination of falling demand from consumers at home and a poor export market.
The revised report on the economic outlook slashed the official predictions from October forecasting 1.8% growth in 2012, and a 2.1% prediction in the July bulletin last year.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny refused to accept the Government's more optimistic budget forecasts are out of line with the Central Bank, and claimed the real priority is creating jobs.
"The Government's growth figures are median figures and we are prepared to stand by those," Mr Kenny said. "(It is) very difficult for anybody to determine what the final growth figure might be but the Government have set out their figures and we stand by that."
Jobs Minister Richard Bruton has been tasked with publishing in the next fortnight an action plan to ease the unemployment crisis.
The Central Bank also warned unemployment would hit 14.6%, only eased by increasing emigration with 40,000 people expected to leave this year. The prediction for 2013 is 14.1% if exports pick up.
Pearse Doherty, Sinn Fein finance spokesman, said Ireland was "without doubt" facing another recession, and added: "We have Enda Kenny time and time again saying we have brought the country back to growth. The Central Bank is telling us the domestic economy is going to shrink again next year."
"For people at home who aren't interested in GNP or GDP, what does this mean? It means jobs are going to be lost, it means businesses are going to be struggling, it means more people are going to emigrate, it means more pressures on families. If this Government continues on this path, they will introduce more cuts to bring them into line with a target that is getting more difficult day by day to reach."