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BUDGET: Is there no end to the misery of austerity?

THE country's sixth austerity Budget contains no new hope for Irish families. Few will emerge unscathed when the measures announced yesterday by Ministers Noonan and Howlin take full effect. Only the very wealthy will be not be hurt.

But the majority -- homeowners, working parents, pensioners, motorists and others -- have all suffered financial hits.

Some of these are inexplicable in the distress they will cause relative to the cash they will save. Taxing maternity benefit and raising prescription charges are two such measures.

Many of the changes were flagged in advance, resulting in a reaction more of resignation than anger.

But as January's paycheques land, with property tax bills to follow, many will wonder if they can sustain any more Troika-imposed austerity.

And with no guarantee of a deal on our bank debt next year, taxpayers will wonder where and when all this is going to end.

Many people, particularly those who are working and whose existing taxes have propped up the State through the last five austerity Budgets, simply cannot take any more.

Everybody knows that Ireland Inc is in grave financial difficulty. It has been for almost five years. The light at the end of the tunnel remains faint.

The sums may well be adding up for our country -- and there's no doubt that the IMF, ECB and EU will like them -- but they're just not adding up for families any more.