MINISTER for Finance Brian Lenihan told people set to be hit by €5 billion worth of cuts and public sector job losses not to "selfishly" oppose the measures.
The Government was bracing itself for an angry backlash as the report of An Bord Snip Nua, set to call for a dramatic shake- up of the civil service, state agencies and welfare payments, was finally to be unveiled.
Up to 1,000 more teachers were expected to be among the casualties, with the ratio of teachers to pupils likely to be raised again, as Mr Lenihan stressed virtually nothing was off-limits for cuts.
The minister said the number of "surplus" staff in the public service would be a major target – believed to mean up to 20,000 jobs will be lost – and warned there was "no hiding place" from the tough choices.
Cuts in areas like education and health, and a nearly €2bn cut in welfare rolls, are bound to increase tensions in the Government coalition, after Green senators abstained from a vote on Fianna Fáil’s controversial crime bill as it was rushed through the Oireachtas.
Mr Lenihan pleaded with those who will bear the brunt of the radical recommendations from the cuts probe – headed by economist Colm McCarthy – to "set aside selfish sectional interests".
Fearing a strong response, including mass street protests, from workers, unions and welfare recipients, Mr Lenihan said at least €4bn in cuts needed to be imposed next year if Ireland was to keep its EU commitments. He said this was not due to the banking crisis but because the country was living beyond its means and facing a deficit of at least €20bn this year as the Government borrowed €70m a day to keep the State running.