Irish 'bailout' talks under way
Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen has dismissed clamour for his resignation as Government number-crunchers finalised a drastic plan for 15 billion euro (£11.1 billion) savings.
After day one of formal bailout talks in Dublin, a 150-page four-year rescue package was being put to the test by an emergency mission from Brussels and Washington.
But as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European delegation inspected the state's financial black hole, Mr Cowen faced deepening anger from the Opposition.
"The Government has a job to do here. We have a four-year plan that we are finalising which we are required to do," the Taoiseach said.
The draconian 2014 budget road map is expected to be published on Monday with significant reforms to the tax system, new levies in property and water on the cards and social welfare being cut. But ministers have taken a hard line with the sacred cow of corporation tax and insisted the low 12.5% rate is non-negotiable.
The 32-strong team from the IMF, European Central Bank and European Commission will follow with its assessment of the crippled economy.
One week after Brussels officials began briefing that the IMF and ECB was on its way to Dublin, Mr Cowen has conceded a bailout loan was on the table. Although he has not attended in person, he described the negotiations as open and constructive.
Governor of Ireland's Central Bank Professor Patrick Honohan is the only senior official or minister to offer an idea of what the IMF/European mission may bring - a cashpot running to tens of billions.
Mr Cowen and his senior Cabinet colleagues have faced intense attacks in the last 48 hours, with the Labour Party declaring Ireland had suffered its blackest week since the Civil War.
Labour's Eamon Gilmore branded the Fianna Fail-Green coalition Government "demoralised, discredited and politically dishevelled" and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny called on the Government to resign in disgrace.