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Taxi Drivers protest. Parked taxi's on O'Connell Street on October 1 disrupt traffic during a protest organised by the Irish Taxi Council at what they say is worsening conditions in the industry. Taxi drivers have travelled from Waterford, Galway and other areas to take part in today's protest. Photo by: Laura Hutton

Irish anger makes Lisbon vote hard to call

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Taxi Drivers protest. Parked taxi's on O'Connell Street on October 1 disrupt traffic during a protest organised by the Irish Taxi Council at what they say is worsening conditions in the industry. Taxi drivers have travelled from Waterford, Galway and other areas to take part in today's protest. Photo by: Laura Hutton

Something strange happened in the center of Dublin yesterday.

A taxi strike occurred blocking off O'Connell Street but no one seems to know who ordered the strike.

'Not us' said the main taxi union. 'Don't Know who'  said the two taxi drivers I spent time in their cars with yesterday. It seems like it was  a wildcat strike with no obvious demands.

It says a lot about the mood in Ireland these days. There is anarchy in the hearts of many. A long winter of discontent looms with  major  unions threatening major strikes if planned pay cuts go ahead . The government seems to have no options but to enforce such cuts to bring the economy back in line.

The Celtic Tiger is long gone in the rear view mirror now. It has been replaced by the contrary cat. Everyone has a grievance, everyone thinks the rich and robber barons in the construction business  have gotten away with bringing the country to its knees.

As I said a muffled, quiet kind of anarchy.

Temperatures are rising like the summerlike weather here.

Three times  in a space of 200 yards yesterday I was accosted by Lisbon vote partisans in Dublin . All loudly demanded  I agree with their yes/no/no stance

It hardly seems like the topic could create such fighting words but the European Union referendum on whether Ireland approves changes made in the EU constitution has raised hackles here to  an incredible extent.

Every public place is festooned with posters threatening Armageddon if the treaty is rejected/accepted this time.

The newspapers are full of full page ads,including some bizarre ones from religious extremists warning that Godless Europe will overwhelm Catholic Ireland  with  pro abortion laws and such like.

Lisbon is the first big hurdle for the embattled incumbent government. If they lose the vote they will surely fall. If they survive after that they have the NAMA legislation which will effectively bailout the property developers and the banks by buying their distressed properties at a very good percentage.

The third one is the budget, expected before Christmas which most observers see as the major battle for the government. More pay cuts for workers could be the final straw.A British journalist who is here  for the same conference I am at said how amazed he was at Ireland's generous welfare system compared to Britain. Even wealthy families get money for having kids, single mothers can live on far better wages than in England  and he confessed his elderly British mother had been treated far better under Ireland's laws than Englands'.

Can Ireland now afford such great benefits for everyone? Probably not. Can it afford a minimum wage close to $10 dollars? Definitely not.

But touch some benefits at your peril. The ordinary Irish have seen the very rich get away with murder in recent months . The lead story in one newspaper showed how a rogue banker had refused to pay back any interest on a massive bank loan he fraudulently obtained. That is the  stuff of everyday life here.

Where it will end no one knows. If Lisbon passes it will be a ray of light in a gloomy landscape. Everyone says it will but no one really seems quite sure. There is a strange mood abroad. Funny that.

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