GREEK TRAGEDY

THE eurozone debt crisis could spread beyond Greece’s economic meltdown, which yesterday led to the deaths of three people, including a pregnant woman, as riots swept through Athens.

As economists predict that Portugal and Spain will be among the next victims of the contagion from the Greek fiscal disaster, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan has reiterated no additional borrowing will be required by Ireland to fund the super-sized €110 billion bailout for Greece.

Mr Lenihan said Ireland will, in fact, make a profit on its €1.3bn, to be loaned to Greece over the next three years.

Three staff burned to death in the Greek capital when protesters set fire to a bank during the general strike over planned austerity measures.

“We are not Irish, we do not sacrifice ourselves for the rich,” the demonstrators chanted as they marched on the Athens parliament buildings.

Massive Greek debt has been turning the euro into a highly volatile currency.

Yesterday, the euro fell as low as 85.10 pence against sterling, its lowest since mid-August last year. Against the dollar, the euro was worth $1.29, its lowest since March 2009.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged her parliament to back the EU’s emergency loan package for Greece.

“Quite simply, Europe’s future is at stake,” Ms Merkel said. “Europe is at a fork in the road.”

Meanwhile, travellers have been urged to avoid visiting parts of Athens.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said the situation was “volatile with a high risk of street violence” as tens of thousands of people take to the streets to protest over government spending cuts.

Intending Irish travellers have been advised to avoid areas around Syntagma Square in Athens, which has witnessed some of the severest violence in clashes between protesters and police. “The Department of Foreign Affairs strongly recommends that comprehensive travel insurance, including medical insurance, is obtained before travelling to Greece.

“Travellers should note that the Irish Government does not provide funds for emergency medical repatriation or for repatriation of remains,” the department stated.

The Greek prime minister denounced what he called the “murder” of the three bank workers.

George Papandreou vowed that those responsible for the deaths would be found and brought to justice.

“A demonstration is one thing and murder is quite another,” he said.

A senior fire department official said demonstrators prevented fire fighters from reaching the burning bank building, costing them vital time.

“Several crucial minutes were lost,” the official said, visibly upset.

“If we had intervened earlier, the loss of life could have been prevented.”

The national strike was held to protest at the austerity measures announced last weekend so that Greece can get the €110bn bailout.

Blue-chip stocks plunged again yesterday as Greece’s debt woes sent shudders through global stock markets.

The FTSE 100 Index fell as fears of the crisis spreading to other countries refused to die away.

The CAC 40 in France and Germany’s Dax fell also.

Ratings agency Moody’s warned it may downgrade Portugal in the next three months, adding fuel to concerns that the Greek crisis was spreading through the eurozone.


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