Justice Minister Dermot Ahern today warned every aspect of Government spending was being examined as the Cabinet prepared for a special pre-Budget meeting.
Ministers were expected to discuss the scale of the multi-billion euro savings needed at the Farmleigh gathering amid speculation it could be as much as double the initial €3bn estimate.
As Fianna Fáil reeled from another disappointing opinion poll, Mr Ahern said it was a matter of putting the country before the party.
“Of course it’s going to be tough and difficult for people and for us all,” Mr Ahern said. “But ultimately we have to ensure that whatever we do is fair and is seen to be fair, because sometimes you make decisions in one area that has implications in another area.
“Everything is on the table. That’s basically it. There’s nothing ruled out.”
The four-year budgetary road map, due to be published in mid-November, will also be discussed by ministers who will gather again tomorrow for a day-long meeting.
The Dáil will not sit until Wednesday due to the Bank Holiday weekend.
The meeting comes a day after a new poll in The Sunday Business Post put support for the senior coalition party at just 18%, compared to 32% for Fine Gael and 27% for Labour.
Children’s Minister Barry Andrews warned last night that the public should expect painful decisions.
“It’s going to be painful for people in receipt of welfare, it may have a detrimental effect on some of our educational provisions,” Mr Andrews told RTE’s The Week In Politics programme.
Speculation has been focused on the scale of the adjustment with claims from Fine Gael that the Department of Finance wanted a seven billion euro package of savings.
The Government stressed nothing had been decided yet.
The Economic and Social Research Institute, which advises the Government, suggested a four billion euro adjustment.
The prospect of cross-party support on the budget cuts was shattered last week after a meeting between Taoiseach Brian Cowen and the leaders of Fine Gael and Labour failed to reach consensus.
Opposition finance spokesmen will continue to be briefed by the Department of Finance to allow them come up with their own four-year budgetary strategies.