updated 2/21/2009 5:29:19 PM ET 2009-02-21T22:29:19

Around 100,000 people filled the streets of the Irish capital Saturday in protest of the government's handling of the country's economic crisis, police said.

The march through the heart of Dublin — organized by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions — was meant as a warning shot to the government, which wants to cut public sector pay even as it pumps billions of euros into its troubled banks.

The government has argued that wage reductions are needed to keep Ireland's ballooning deficits under control and reassure international markets that Ireland isn't spiraling toward a default.

But the plan — which effectively docks 7 percent from the paychecks of 350,000 Irish workers — comes amid revelations of shady dealings and irresponsible lending at the banks now getting the taxpayers' help.

Ireland once had one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe, but boom turned to bust last year as shock waves from the subprime lending crisis in the United States spread across the globe.

Organizers originally planned the demonstration as a protest at the wage cutbacks, but later called on all Irish workers to turn out in a show of strength.

"Our generations yet unborn have been mortgaged in order to keep this banking system together," Congress of Trade Unions General Secretary David Begg told cheering crowds at Dublin's Merrion Square.

The trade unions are hoping the turnout will convince the government that organized labor is ready to strike if its demands are ignored.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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