DUBLIN (Reuters) - Irish pensioners called for the government to resign over cuts to medical and phone subsidies in a protest at parliament on Tuesday, the first significant sign of opposition to this month's austerity budget.
Ireland has seen relatively little protest during six years of budget cuts that have put it on the verge of exiting its EU-IMF bailout, but more than 1,000 pensioners who travelled from across the country said they could take no more.
The government last week scrapped a free telephone allowance, hiked a tax on medical prescriptions and said it would slash the number of people entitled to free health care.
"The elderly are an easy target, but we've just had enough," said Frank Kevins, a 66-year-old retired chef who travelled 300 km (185 miles) from the west of Ireland with a poster that said "Only tyrants penalise old people".
The crowd called on Prime Minister Enda Kenny to resign and booed when a speaker mentioned the junior coalition Labour Party, which has seen its poll ratings plummet after getting elected on a promise to protect the vulnerable.
Kenny's government has hit all the major targets under its 85 billion-euro EU-IMF bailout, but years of austerity have weighed down consumer spending, raising fears the economy will not grow fast enough to cut its debt mountain.
"I already have to choose between paying a bill and buying less food ... It's impossible," said Bernard Keane, 64, who has to pay the new prescription levy, an increased property tax and a telephone bill from an already stretched 220 euro a week pension.
(Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Alison Williams)