LONDON — Ireland is on the verge of reaching a preliminary agreement with international finance officials on a massive bailout package, a government minister said Saturday, as thousands of angry demonstrators marched through Dublin to protest the country's latest round of painful public-spending cutbacks.
Irish Communications Minister Eamon Ryan told broadcaster RTE that his colleagues and their counterparts with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union were working hard to produce an "outline agreement" in time for the opening of financial markets Monday.
Ryan declined to give precise details of the expected bailout, beyond its projected price tag of about $115 billion. The announcement of even a draft agreement today would represent a speedy outcome to negotiations that had been expected to take weeks.
Dublin is deep in the hole because of its devastated banking sector, whose losses have pushed the government's budget deficit to a staggering 32 percent of gross domestic product. Nervous investors have been dumping Irish bonds for days, making it prohibitively expensive for Ireland to borrow money on the open market.
In addition to jittery international markets, Dublin also must contend with an increasingly angry populace, including many who blame the government's coziness with the banks for bringing Ireland to its knees and who reject the tough austerity measures it has introduced to rein in the deficit.
The latest austerity plan, unveiled last week by Prime Minister Brian Cowen's government, will involve the loss of about 25,000 public-sector jobs, equivalent to 10 percent of the government work force, as well as a four-year, $20 billion program of tax increases and spending cuts like sharp reductions in state pensions and the minimum wage. One Dublin newspaper, the Irish Independent, estimated that the cost of the measures for a typical middle-class family earning $67,000 a year would be about $5,800 a year.
Information from the New York Times was used in this report.