Up to 250,000 public and civil servants are expected to strike today in protest of the Irish Government’s plans to cut their pay benefits.

In an effort to bridge the State’s massive deficit, the Government needs to save over $29.9 billion a year. To do so, it plans to cut pay for firefighters, police officers, nurses, the defense forces, teachers, lecturers and public administrators.

The action began when firefighters went on strike at midnight last night. Primary and secondary schools have closed and many Universities are also closed for lectures.

The Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) issued a statement this morning supporting the strike and said that the cuts are too much for the sector.

"Teachers and lecturers are prepared to take their fair share of pain in the current economic climate but the proposed cuts are disproportionate and selectively applied," said the TUI.

Emergency services have ceased operations and paramedics are only operating if an urgent situation arises. Emergency rooms have effectively closed and will only accept medical emergencies. 

The police force is legally obliged not to strike. They have agreed not to work on overtime and have announced that they will fight only serious crime.  

Most civil services have being brought to a standstill. All state departments and government buildings are currently being picketed by strikers.

Bernard Harper of Impact regretted the industrial move but emphasized the need to strike as negotiations had been unsuccessful.

Harper said: "The focus will be finding a solution to this not on further industrial action. But I think it is likely that the unions will say that if the Government is not prepared to find an alternative to the cost savings it's looking for . . . then there is likely to be further industrial action.

"What we want to do is find a way to achieve those savings over the next three or four years in ways that preserve public services and what that means is that the reform side of this is just as important as the cutting side of this.”

Ireland is currently borrowing over $747 million a week to pay for social welfare and other costs. The country has one of the highest rates of unemployment per capita in the EU.

55,000 people were expected to receive welfare benefits today, it is now expected that they will now collect it later in the week.

All civil services have been stopped unless there is a threat to life. There has being widespread disruption in Ireland since the strike was called. The strike is expected to last no more than 24 hours.