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Protesters march through Dublin over Irish austerity plan

By the CNN Wire Staff
Thousands of people march through the streets of Dublin, Ireland to protest against austerity cuts, November 27, 2010.
Thousands of people march through the streets of Dublin, Ireland to protest against austerity cuts, November 27, 2010.
  • Around 50,000 demonstrate in Dublin
  • The plan saves 15 billion euros through welfare cuts and higher taxes
  • Ireland's prime minister says it is needed to tackle the country's massive debt
  • Trade unions call the plan "savage and regressive"

Dublin, Ireland (CNN) -- Tens of thousands of people demonstrated on the streets of Dublin, Ireland, on Saturday against the government's austerity plan.

Irish police estimated the number taking part in the largely peaceful demonstration to be about 50,000.

The protests were organized by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), which has called the four-year plan for spending cuts and tax hikes "savage and regressive."

Irish police said a comprehensive policing plan has been put in place "in order to facilitate a peaceful march." Groups of eight to 10 police officers were seen at several key intersections, monitoring the activity.

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Families, pensioners, the unemployed and members of unions and community groups were among the demonstrators who braved a rare dusting of snow to come out Saturday, the ICTU said.

The marching route took protesters along the River Liffey to a Dublin landmark, the General Post Office.

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen announced the plan this week after agreeing to a bailout package from the International Monetary Fund and European Union, needed to tackle Ireland's massive debt.

The plan saves 10 billion euros ($13.4 billion) through welfare cuts and an additional 5 billion euros ($6.7 billion) through higher taxes. There will be reductions in the minimum wage and public-sector pay, and a hike in the value-added tax on goods and services, Cowen said.

The plan calls for introducing water meters, making students pay more for higher education, and requiring more Irish workers to pay income tax.

Trade unions complain the plan unfairly targets lower-paid workers, while making no provision for a tax on asset wealth. They say it fails to explain how the Irish people can carry the banks' massive debts and sets out no strategy for creating jobs.

"People are angry and they've had enough of this government," local journalist Juliette Gash told CNN. "They're furious because they feel like the government has handed over the keys to the country."

Journalist Peter Taggart contributed to this report.