Ireland’s fight-back against austerity has finally taken off – up to 20,000 people have taken to the streets of Dublin in a pre-budget protest.

Saturday’s march from the Garden of Remembrance to the GPO marked the first serious public kickback against the conditions imposed by the EU and IMF bail-out.

Speakers called on the government to fight the austerity measures set to worsen in next month’s budget.

The march was organised by the Dublin Council of Trade Unions and attracted demonstrators from all across Ireland.

DCTU chief Michael O’Reilly told the crowd that Saturday’s march is only the first of many as the Coalition government prepares to unveil more savage cuts.

O’Reilly said: “The evidence is clear - you cannot cut your way out of a recession. On the contrary - with each cut in public spending and with each euro taken out of the pockets of low and average earners, we are digging ourselves further into a hole.

“These protests prove the Government can’t afford another austerity Budget on December 5. And we will be outside the Dail (parliament) when they unveil their budget on Wednesday week.”

The marchers were led off by a woman wearing a white mask and riding a dark horse as traffic in the capital came to a standstill.

United Left Alliance deputy Richard Boyd Barrett urged the crowd to use Saturday’s march as the beginning of a new campaign against government cutbacks.

Boyd Barrett said: “I hope this protest will lead to a national campaign of resistance against austerity and the bank bail-outs.

“It is abundantly clear, that half of the population - if not more - simply cannot take any more. The fabric of our society and our economy is being ripped apart.

“This madness has to stop. We must cease immediately the insane policy of prioritising the interests of banks and markets over the needs of ordinary citizens.”

Irish Congress of Trade Union boss Eugene McGlone called for a general strike but, according to the Irish Sun newspaper, the call was rejected by other union officials

Socialist deputy Joe Higgins told the paper that the march was the start of a sustained battle against further hardship being imposed on the people.

Higgins said: “This is a magnificent demonstration against austerity and the household tax.

“The property tax is going to be a nightmare for ordinary householders.

“The boycott and the intensification of a massive campaign against it is the only way to stop it.”

Protestor Donal McGreevy urged the Government to stop the cuts. He told the Irish Sun: “It was a superb turnout and the Government will have to sit up and take notice.

“The people of Ireland have had enough and shouldn’t be held responsible for the actions of those who brought this country to its knees.”