Bailout pressure builds on Ireland

September 28, 2010, 9:16 PM UTC

Is Anglo Irish the world’s most destructive bank?

The reckless property lender was bailed out by the Irish government after the global credit bubble started deflating. But two years later, the toll exacted by that effort keeps rising, much to the chagrin of Irish taxpayers.

A proud heritage

An analyst at Standard & Poor’s said Tuesday that the cost of dealing with Anglo Irish may exceed 35 billion euros ($47.5 billion). That’s up from the rating agency’s previous estimate and well above the cost projected by Moody’s, which on Monday downgraded Anglo Irish debt on the assumption that bondholders will have to share in the costs of cleaning up the mess.

The costs are a big issue because they constitute a large sum in a smallish (gross domestic product $177 billion) economy whose output has fallen 10% since 2007. The latest data suggest Ireland’s recovery has stalled, which will only add to pressure on a government that has been embracing austerity but to little effect.

Meanwhile, despite the government’s efforts to tighten its belt, investors keep demanding higher rates to buy Irish bonds. The yield on the 10-year note surged to a record 6.78% Tuesday, while the cost of insuring against a default on those bonds has more than doubled in two months.

The coming days could bring even more stresses, as the government is expected to release a report on its view of Anglo Irish costs.