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Sluggish Growth A Reality Check For New Irish Govt:reuters Poll

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Economists further trimmed their 2011 growth forecasts for Ireland, a Reuters poll showed on Monday, highlighting the daunting task Ireland's next government faces to get consumers spending again.

Ireland's opposition parties will kick-start coalition talks on Monday, with their first priority to renegotiate with Europe the terms of a rescue package they fear will bankrupt the former "Celtic Tiger" economy.

Regardless of what happens in Brussels, Prime Minister-in-waiting Enda Kenny will have to inflict further budgetary pain on a weary people too concerned about paying off hefty mortgages to kickstart the economy with shopping sprees.

Irish retail sales fell 3.8 percent in January by volume from the previous month as consumers digested large tax increases introduced in the 2011 budget.

Separately, the number of residential mortgages in arrears for over three months jumped by more than 55 percent last year, data from the central bank showed. Over 70 percent of mortgages in arrears are more than six months in the red.

Dublin is relying on its buoyant export sector to deliver gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 1.7 percent this year but the 11 economists polled by Reuters now expect only 1.2 percent growth, down from 1.4 percent in the last survey and from 3 percent in early August before Ireland's debt crisis accelerated.

Both the European Commission and International Monetary Fund expect Irish GDP to grow by just 0.9 percent this year.

Still at least they'll have the money to pay the bailout back...

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