Scuffles broke out between anti-austerity protesters and Gardai police forces in Dublin last night as the Irish government announced its 2013 budget.

The Irish government tested the economy and a long-suffering public with a new 3.5 billion euro  dose of austerity, though better service sector and jobless data helped soften the blow a little.

Bailed-out Ireland has made a limited return to bond markets and is one of few euro zone countries to keep eking out mild growth, but with one of the highest budget deficits in Europe, it has little option but to further cut spending and hike taxes.

New measures included a politically incendiary property tax at a time when one in six home owners are struggling to pay their mortgages and the budget was greeted by some 1,500 protesters outside parliament, a small number of whom clashed with police.

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