Friday, February 08 07:46:31
Watching from behind pints of Guinness as their prime minister announced an historic deal to reduce Ireland's debt mountain, the drinkers at Mulligan's pub in central Dublin were in no mood to open the champagne.
Thursday's agreement to stretch out over four decades the 48 billion euros ($64 billion) of repayments on debt needed to bail out the country's worst lender sparked applause in parliament.
But for workers who struggle to make mortgage payments on houses worth a fraction of what was borrowed to buy them, the prospect of their grandchildren still paying off the debt in 2053 was little cause for celebration.
"I hope that this means things will change, but I don't think they will," said Turlough O'Brien, a gravedigger from north Dublin. "We're still going to have austerity and the Irish public will still have to carry the can."
A line of middle-aged men watching Prime Minister Enda Kenny's speech on a small TV behind the bar debated what the deal would mean for a weary Irish public facing a sixth year of austerity since the financial crisis began.
In a country where promissory notes and the pitfalls of monetary financing have become staples of drive-time radio, the details of the deal were not the problem.
Most had given up on any idea that the country's politicians are focused on easing the economic pain of Ireland's workers.
"It's positive news, but I don't think this will change anything for the ordinary Joe Soap," said Mick Kelly from Leitrim in western Ireland.
TV pundits said the deal should shave around 1 billion euros ($1.34 billion) off the government's annual expenditure, around one-third of the budgetary consolidation planned for this year.
But with deficit targets from the International Monetary Fund and European Union still in place, that will likely do little more than slow the onslaught of austerity, said John Lawlor, 56, a civil servant from Dublin.
"A deal had to be achieved for this government to stay because the public just couldn't take any more cuts," said Lawlor. He has been a regular at the pub for more than 25 years and last year his debts increased by 25,000 euros.
"What the people are going through is terrible," he said.
Some younger punters expressed satisfaction with the deal that they believe will signal the start of Ireland's economic turnaround and improve its global standing.
"If we didn't pay, Ireland's credibility would have disappeared and the repercussions could have been very serious," said Robert Wall, 25, who is studying to become an Irish language teacher.
While exports are growing and house prices have finally stopped falling, one economic indicator showing little sign of life is drinks' sales.
Despite being famed around the city for the quality of its Guinness, Mulligan's has not been spared the effects of the downturn, according to its co-owner, Gary Cusack.
"Austerity has definitely pinched our trade year on year as more and more taxes come in, so hopefully getting this deal will be good all around," he said.
"People don't have the few extra bob for a couple of pints anymore. What I'm hearing every day from people in here is that it can't get much worse than it is now." ( C) Reuters