Ireland Swallows Bitter Pill, Asks EU for Loan

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Ireland has formally applied for a massive bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund in an effort to keep its banking system from collapsing.

European Union finance ministers agreed to the loan, saying it "is warranted to safeguard financial stability in the EU and euro area."  

Meanwhile, markets opened slightly higher on the news of the rescue deal, with the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100-share index up 0.7 percent in early trading Monday morning.

"So long as the numbers are big enough, the market may be in awe of it," economist Andrew Hilton said. "Shock and awe is the order of the day. And if there's enough money in the pot, you may not have to draw it down."

"But the real concern for the Irish are the conditions that are going to be attached to it, and that's what's got Irish politicians and indeed the broader Irish public up-in-arms," he added.
    
Thoughts of a bailout were unimaginable just a few years ago, when the Irish economy was booming and considered the envy of Europe. Now, much like Greece, the debt-crippled country has been struggling to avoid bankruptcy.

The exact size of Ireland's bailout is still to be determined. Hilton predicted the loan would come with tough conditions, similar to the ones imposed on the Greeks.

"When it came to Greece the Greeks were stuffed with all sorts of tough conditions, which they are finding it very, very hard to live up to," Hilton told the British broadcaster Sky. "It seems most unlikely that the Irish will be treated any more generously."

Other struggling European countries like Spain and Portugal may soon need bailouts as well.

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