IRELAND PASSES AUSTERITY PLAN AS IT LOWERS GROWTH OUTLOOK

Ireland's coalition government yesterday announced €1.6bn (£857m) worth of tax increases in the second part of what it hopes will be the toughest budget of its five-year term of office.

Minister for finance Michael Noonan (left) aimed the government axe at social welfare payments, the health sector and education, with fuel and rent allowances, disability payments and student grants all cut. But income tax and the corporate tax rate remain the same, the government said as it cut its 2012 growth forecasts from 1.6 to 1.3 per cent.