Leading Communists from Britain and Ireland met in Belfast on Thursday to discuss public services and public finances writes Anne Douglas in the Morning Star.

They jointly condemned the policies of the British and Irish governments to inflict "damaging, dangerous and unnecessary cuts" in public services, partly to offset the cost of bailing out the banks and money markets.

On the same day, in Dublin, Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan was announcing that the country's citizens would have to pay an extra £10 billion to rescue the Anglo-Irish Bank.

This means that Irish taxpayers might have to find up to £50 billion to bail out five Irish banks, some of which had lent money from British and German banks to Dublin property speculators.

The Communist parties of Ireland and Britain also pledged to agreed to expose the drive by the European Union to impose a financial austerity regime across all EU member states.

Indeed, pressure from the European Commission and the European Central Bank is behind the Dublin government's insistence that Irish citizens should suffer in order to compensate the Anglo-Irish Bank's creditors.

After the Belfast meeting, Communist Party of Ireland general secretary Eugene McCartan told the Morning Star: "The present and future generations of Irish workers will pay a very heavy price in cuts in public services, growing job losses and forced emigration of thousands of people.

"Pouring public money into these zombie banks has already pushed Ireland's national debt up to 32 per cent of GDP and the austerity measures being imposed by the European Union are designed to secure the interests of German and French bankers."

The two Communist parties welcomed reports of discussions between the administrations of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly of Wales to seek agreement in opposition to cuts in funding and vital public services.

They emphasised that the "democratic potential" of the devolved elected bodies should be used to oppose the cuts.

They also urged the Northern Ireland, Welsh and Scottish administrations, assemblies and parliament to defend public services, jobs and local communities as far as possible against the cuts demanded by the British central government.

"There is no need to slash services and plunge economies back into recession to close the deficit in public finances," Communist Party of Britain general secretary Robert Griffiths said.

"Taxing the rich and big business monopoly profits, and chopping military expenditure, could both narrow the deficit and fund additional investment in services, housing, manufacturing and jobs."

He pointed to growing support for the People's Charter in Britain as an alternative to the neoliberal austerity programme pursued by the Con-Dem coalition government.

The Communists of Britain and Ireland were united in their commitment to mobilise for lobbies, demonstrations and industrial action to defend public services.

Welcoming the stance of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the British TUC and the Scottish and Welsh TUCs to oppose cuts and defend jobs through a programme of reflation, they urged trades councils and all the English regional TUCs to mobilise to put pressure on local authorities to maintain vital services in local communities.

But CPI general secretary McCartan called for a more robust response from the trade union movement in Ireland where, he said, "The mass of the people are being sacrificed to keep the bankers and their decaying system on a life-support machine."