As Dublin witnesses high profile protests on its streets, the capital is bracing itself for widespread civil unrest in the weeks to come.
On 25 February An Garda Siochana (Ireland's police force) held a one day strike in protest over the levy while the next day thousands of lower-paid civil servants reciprocated. Soon to follow suit are the nation's nurses and teachers in what is likely to be a series of highly organised strikes designed to cause maximum disruption to the state.
Unions are reacting angrily to the government's controversial pension levy which requires public servants to pay 10 per cent of their salaries directly into their own (government funded) pensions. At a time of grave economic instability this is seen to be, in effect, a 10 per cent pay cut. Public servants view the levy as grossly unfair while those in the private sector complain that public jobs are safe, whereas employment in their sector is haemorrhaging at a rate of 1,500 jobs a day. Many people appear to be united in their belief that the government is attempting to drive a wedge between both sectors.
Unemployment continues to rise. The number of people claiming jobseekers' benefit increased by a record 36,500 in January, bringing the total amount of unemployed people to 326,100, an increase of 80 per cent on this time last year. With further heavy job losses expected, Taoiseach Brian Cowen estimates that the number of people joining the dole queues will breach 400,000 in 2009, although it is feared that if the pace of layoffs continues, the number of claimants could exceed 500,000 by the end of the year. The total number of unemployment benefit claimants is now at its highest point in the history of the country. The newly unemployed already face delays of up to three months before they receive their first jobseekers