By William Underhill
With Ireland's once-roaring economy staggered by the banking crisis--unemployment is at 13 percent, emigration is rising, and the money markets rank Ireland not far behind Greece on the list of Europe's big-time losers--Prime Minister Brian Cowen and his able finance minister, Brian Lenihan, are prescribing harsh medicine. They've pushed through austerity packages drastic enough to win the admiration of the international community, raised taxes, and slashed some public salaries by more than 10 percent. But the Irish aren't showing much gratitude--Cowen's ratings have plunged to a mere 18 percent, and his Fianna Fail party can expect a drubbing in the 2012 national elections. Still, there's some hope that his government's unpopular measures will be rewarded in the long run: surveys suggest that Irish consumer confidence is on the rise again, and the economy notched up modest growth in the first quarter of 2010.