After years of give-away budgets on the back of the Celtic Tiger, the country is in financial ruin. Banking scandals and the relative loss of economic sovereignty do little to garner support for a government struggling to survive under global economic pressures, political scandals, domestic economic crisis and rising unemployment.
Spending cuts are now commonplace and the public are becoming more and more disillusioned. Attempts to remove the universal entitlement of pensioners to a medical card lead to protest in October 2008 and a subsequent loss in support for a struggling Fianna Fáil party.
The election that follows in February 2011 sees Fianna Fail go from being the most popular party to the 3rd most popular party in the Republic of Ireland. Their partners in government, the Green Party, fail to retain a single seat in the election.
Carrying on from the austerity measures of previous budgets, Budget 2011 sees €6bn being taken out of the economy in cuts to tax credits and bands, child benefit and social welfare, the introduction of a universal social charge, and the abolition of the employee PRSI ceiling. One of the most controversial of measures is the cut in minimum wage by €1 per hour to €7.65. Public sector salaries are capped at a maximum of €250,000 and ministerial and Taoiseach salaries are to be reduced.
These austere measures are introduced at a time when Ireland, only weeks previously, entered into an EU/IMF bailout, which handed over a large portion of economic sovereignty and budgetary decision-making to foreign control.
The accompanying image is taken from RTÉ News footage showing protestors outside Leinster House.
Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan, described the budget as, "a substantial down payment on the journey back to economic health". He added that there is every reason to have confidence in the future of the country.
While the Minister for Finance delivered his budget in Dáil Eireann, noisy protests were taking place outside with a number of groups there to voice their anger at the budget measures.