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Europe

Ireland passes crucial finance bill

Ireland's upper house of parliament has passed a key finance bill needed to secure the country's 85-billion-euro ($116 billion) international bailout package.

Glengarriff, Beara Peninsula, County Cork, Ireland

The bill is meant to secure Ireland a much-needed bailout

Ireland's upper house of parliament, the senate, voted late Saturday to approve a bill needed to comply with the terms of a huge financial rescue package Ireland had to accept from the International Monetary Fund and European Union.

The bill represents the final part of the government's harsh austerity budget, which foresees massive tax and cost-cutting measures worth 15 billion euros ($20 billion). After two days of debate, it was passed at 30 votes to 20.

The bill's passage means Ireland will meet its goal, under the 85-billion-euro EU- IMF deal agreed late last year, of delivering a record austerity budget by the end of March.

The bill paves the way for Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen to call early elections. Cowen had promised to dissolve parliament once the finance bill was passed and announce the date of a general election, probably on February 25 - in which his ruling Fianna Fail party is expected to suffer a heavy defeat.

Cowen's party in trouble

In opinion polls published on Sunday, the party looked set for its worst electoral defeat ever.

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen

Embattled Irish PM Cowen quit as leader of his Fiana Fail party a week ago

Surveys conducted for the Sunday Independent and Sunday Business Post newspapers, showed Fianna Fail trailing far behind the probable next government - a coalition between the center-right Fine Gael and center-left Labour party.

Cowen's popularity has slumped since the government last November was forced to accept the EU-IMF bailout to stop the country going bankrupt. The Independent poll had Cowen at a personal rating of 10 percent and dissatisfaction with the government at 95 percent.

Ireland is the second eurozone nation after Greece to seek a rescue.

Author: Gregg Benzow (dpa, AFP)
Editor: Sonia Phalnikar

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