Timeline: Ireland's Fine Gael wins elections

Sun Feb 27, 2011 7:01am EST

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(Reuters) - Irish voters have propelled the center-right Fine Gael party into power on Sunday, on a wave of voter anger over the country's economic meltdown.

Here is a timeline of Ireland's economic troubles since former governing Fianna Fail leader Brian Cowen took office as prime minister in 2008:

September 25, 2008 - Ireland is first euro zone country to go into recession after its property bubble bursts.

September 30 - Ireland responds to collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers, approving a guarantee covering 400 billion euros ($530 billion) of liabilities at six Irish-owned banks. The package is later increased to 485 billion euros to cover foreign-owned banks with significant operations in Ireland.

December 21 - Ireland agrees to inject 5.5 billion euros into its three main banks, taking Anglo Irish Bank under government control.

April 8, 2009 - Finance Minister Brian Lenihan outlines 10.6 billion euros in spending cuts for 2010-2011 and forecasts an additional 3.25 billion euros from taxation in an emergency budget.

December 9 - Ireland's 2010 budget includes savings of more than 4 billion euros, cutting public pay and welfare.

September 30, 2010 - Ireland discloses a worst-case price tag of more than 50 billion euros ($68 billion) for bailing out its banks.

November 16 - Euro zone finance ministers agree to lay the groundwork for bailing out Ireland's banking sector with the International Monetary Fund, but say Dublin has to decide whether to request the aid. It agrees to let EU, IMF and European Central Bank technical experts visit Ireland.

November 22 - EU, IMF officials begin working out details of rescue package. Cowen's coalition partner, the Green Party, says it will support the government until the budget is passed and the bailout is in place, but will then leave the coalition.

November 24 - Ireland reveals a 15 billion euro four-year austerity plan imposing spending cuts and tax increases to help meet the costs of the bank crisis and the terms of the EU/IMF rescue.

November 28 - The EU approves an 85-billion-euro rescue for Ireland and outlines a permanent system to resolve debt crises.

December 7 - Ireland details the toughest budget on record, which includes 6 billion euros in tax rises and spending cuts.

December 9 - Fitch becomes the first agency to strip Ireland of its 'A' credit status, slashing it by three notches to BBB+.

December 15 - Parliament approves the EU/IMF bailout package, but the opposition threatens to renegotiate the deal to force losses on some senior bond holders in Irish banks.

December 17 - Moody's cuts Ireland's credit rating to Baa1, with a negative outlook.

January 16, 2011 - Cowen says he will remain leader of Fianna Fail and prime minister but will call election after the finance bill is passed.

January 18 - Cowen wins vote of confidence in his leadership of the ruling party.

January 20 - Cowen sets March 11 for parliamentary election after a third of his cabinet resigns in just over 24 hours.

January 22 - Cowen resigns as leader of Fianna Fail but says he will stay as premier until the parliamentary election. Four days later Fianna Fail elects former foreign minister Micheal Martin as leader to replace Cowen.

January 29 - The finance bill, needed to ensure Ireland meets a target of its bailout package, is passed in the upper house (Senate). It has already passed the lower house (Dail).

January 30 - In a sharp change in policy, coalition contender Labour says it want the EU to give Ireland an extra year, until 2016, to bring shrink its budget deficit to 3 percent of GDP.

January 31 - Cowen says he will not seek re-election and sets a new election date the next day.

February 9 - Lenihan shelves plans to inject up to 10 billion euro into local banks until after an election, throwing down a challenge to the next government.

February 25 - Parliamentary elections.

February 27 - The opposition Fine Gael is on course for a record 75 plus seats, but the pro-business, low tax party will fall short of an overall majority in the 166-seat lower chamber.

-- Fianna Fail is set for a record rout with just 14 seats.

(Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit;;

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