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Ireland Imposes 6th Straight Austerity Budget

Noonan said the government was sticking by its economic forecasts of 1.5 percent growth in GDP next year, 2.5 percent in 2014 and 2.9 percent in 2015 despite imposing more cuts that suck money from the real economy. Economists say it's difficult to make such predictions for Ireland, which hosts nearly 1,000 high-tech multinationals and is exceptionally exposed by European standards to economic trends in Britain and the United States, its two major trading partners.

Ireland has experienced little of the social or labor upheaval experienced in other debt-struck countries in part because of a government-brokered agreement between unions and employers, but that 2009 pact appears to be fraying at the seams, with many employers resisting unions' demands for scheduled pay increases.

About 500 socialist and Irish republican protesters marched Wednesday night on the parliament, some carrying placards declaring "Boycott the property tax" and "General strike now." A minority scuffled with 40 police officers at the parliament's wrought iron gates, mostly exchanging shoves and harsh words. Police lifted several protesters by the limbs off the roadway and set them down on the sidewalk, but reported no arrests or serious injuries.

As usual, Ireland did not touch its 12.5 percent rate on company profits, a key factor for more than 500 U.S. companies that have made Ireland their eurozone base. France and Germany have repeatedly complained that the Irish tax rate, less than half their own, poaches jobs from other eurozone members.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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