The construction sector in Ireland is facing the loss of 15,000 jobs if, as expected, outupt falls 8% this year.
The Irish arm of QS Davis Langdon Europe makes the prediction in its annual review, blaming the fall in output on the Irish government, which it says introduced an "inept budget" in December 2002.

In an attempt to plug holes in national finances, the Dublin government cut spending on roads, schools, hospitals and other public projects.

It also increased VAT on construction by 1% and removed industry tax breaks.

Michael Webb, managing partner of Davis Langdon PKS, said: "[The budget decisions] will have the effect of accelerating the decline in an already shaky industry."

He was particularly critical of the abolition of tax breaks, which he said had fuelled construction inflation at the height of the boom but had been removed "at the worst possible time".

Despite a 2% drop in output last year, Irish construction still employs a record 190,000 people, reflecting a boom that began in the mid-1990s, when annual growth reached double figures.

The tax breaks fuelled construction inflation at the height of the boom but have been removed at the worst possible time

Michael Webb, managing partner DLPKS

Skilled staff were recruited from the UK, Europe, the USA, Australia and South Africa, many of them Irish returning emigrants.

DLPKS says that Ireland was the only state in the European Union not to forecast construction growth this year. The predicted redundancies are expected across the industry, and include labourers, architects, engineers and site managers. The QS expects some of these workers to move to the UK.

Irish trade body the Construction Industry Federation has asked the government to review the cuts in capital spending. It called on the government to borrow money to fund infrastructure development that would stave off the threatened redundancies and prevent the industry drifting into recession.