Tough Times

Austere Irish Budget Passes First Vote

Irish lawmakers approved the first leg of their toughest budget in years Tuesday, one that seeks to cut $8 billion (€6 billion) in spending and is expected to hurt everyone from the country’s political elite to the poorest welfare recipients. To pass the measure, the Irish parliament will hold four votes, which must take place over the next four months—and $8 billion needs to be cut before Ireland can qualify for a bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Among other cuts, the 2011 Irish budget would lower the minimum wage, cut social welfare payments, and introduce a site-property tax while leaving state pensions at their current rate. “This has been a traumatic and worrying time for the citizens of our country,” said Prime Minister Brian Lenihan, who himself took a $18,555 (€14,000) pay cut to help even out the budget.