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Crisis Talks

Multibillion euro rescue talks went on as Cowen visited Arranmore

The taoiseach has been criticised for travelling to Arranmore Island to speak with the locals about salmon fishing as Brian Lenihan sweated it out with the IMF and Europe.

AS THE MINISTER for Finance Brian Lenihan continued tense talks with representatives of the IMF, EU and ECB about the size of a rescue package for Ireland – expected to total at least €100 billion – the Taoiseach Brian Cowen spent the day on Arranmore Island discussing salmon fishing and by-elections.

Cowen travelled to speak to the 250 voters of Arranmore, an area traditionally supportive of Fianna Fáil, on Saturday. He spent the day canvassing for the upcoming by-election, and speaking to the fishermen on the island who are growing increasingly concerned about EU restrictions on catching salmon from local waters.

Speaking to reporters, Cowen insisted that the issue on Arranmore was “dire” and added: “It is important to meet the people. It is my job to have a good discussion with them about this”.

However, The New York Times ponders what Cowen was doing on an island off Donegal, talking to “dour” fishermen and their “sad-eyed children”, as his finance minister battled out Ireland’s economic future with the International Monetary Fund and Europe.

But the taoiseach said that he would be in Dublin again on Sunday to continue talks with the IMF and EU, and to discuss the shape of the country’s upcoming four-year budget.

Meanwhile, the Independent on Sunday reports that Cowen and his government are facing being “ignominiously driven from office” as public anger mounts. Furious people across the country are accusing the government of lying to them, and one senior Fine Gael figure told the newspaper: “The people are ready to march on Government Buildings, like I have never sensed before.”

Yesterday, one of the country’s biggest trade unions, the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union, voted to engage in a campaign of civil disobedience if the government did not call a general election.

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