DUBLIN // The Irish cabinet will meet on Sunday to rubber stamp a four-year programme of spending cuts and tax measures that is expected to be published early next week and then be followed swiftly by an international financial bailout.
Support for the Irish government has collapsed over its handling of the country's economic and financial crisis and is now at a record low: "You have lied, You have let us down. For Ireland's sake, go now" demanded the Sunday Independent newspaper under a front page picture of the cabinet. Public anger, already high at the prospect of looming job and welfare cuts, has reached boiling point after it became clear the government would need outside help.
Officials from the International Monetary Fund and European Commission are in Dublin to thrash out an aid package to help the country cope with its struggling banks, whose huge liabilities have sent Irish borrowing costs soaring.
That package is expected to be agreed next week once the four-year austerity plan is published.
Support for Ireland's ruling centre-right Fianna Fail party, led by Prime Minister Brian Cowen who was finance minister at the end of Ireland's economic boom years, has dropped to 17 per cent, a Sunday Business Post/Red C poll on Sunday showed.
That percentage at a general election would cost the party half its seats.
Anger at the government's perceived mishandling of the latest chapter in its crisis, the imminent EU/IMF bailout, is also fracturing the party.
The Sunday Tribune newspaper reported that a number of backbench politicians and more senior party figures expected a leadership challenge after Christmas. The Sunday Independent led with the headline: "A nation's rage to drive Cowen out". A spring election is seen as likely even if the government manages to pass the first of its austerity budgets next month given Fianna Fail's razor-thin parliamentary majority, expected to be cut further following a by-election on Thursday.