Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has revealed there were times when he feared the Government would not have enough money to run the country.
The Labour Party leader claimed he put national responsibility before party advantage and thought about the next generation and not the next election during the crisis.
He maintained that for the first time since the economic crisis began people can dare to hope again.
Delivering his keynote address at his party’s annual conference in Killarney, Mr Gilmore said difficult decisions had to be made because the country was short of money.
“There were times, especially in the early stages, in 2011, when I feared we wouldn’t make it,” he said.
“What happens if a country runs out of money? How, in those circumstances, do you keep the schools and hospitals open, and keep the police on the streets, and how do you persuade the job creators to invest?
“Believe me, if we had not come to grips with it, this could all have gone from crisis to disaster.”
In his televised address, Mr Gilmore said he was looking to the future, adding that 1,200 jobs were being created every week while unemployment was falling.
“Before the last election, Fianna Fail had brought this country to its knees,” he said.
“Today, with Labour, and because of the sacrifices of the Irish people, we are climbing back on our feet again.”
The party leader has been under mounting pressure as Labour’s popularity dropped in opinion polls.
He has also faced calls for his resignation, most recently this morning from Dublin North West delegate Gerry Kerr who hit out at what he called Mr Gilmore’s failure to deliver on services for the disabled and the “damage caused by broken trust”.
Mr Gilmore accepted the past few years have been tough.
“We still have a distance to travel, but for the first time since the crisis began, we can dare to hope again,” he said.
“To face the future and to see a way forward for ourselves, as individuals, as families and as a people.”
Mr Gilmore said on December 15 Ireland will exit from the EU/IMF bail-out programme, which he said was initially a flawed deal by Fianna Fail based on debt and not growth.
“We are getting back on our feet and now we must step forward to the next stage, ending the seemingly endless crisis,” he continued.
“At last, we can begin to move on from the day to day struggle for survival, and the week to week search for recovery, to begin again to think about a better future. To start to live again.”
He claimed without the measures imposed in Government with Fine Gael the country may be facing a second bail-out with workers facing a collapse in their wages, and schools, hospitals and pensioners facing huge cuts in their money.
Mr Gilmore outlined developments by his ministers in health, education, social protection and reform, and warned the country will not go back to the ways of the past.
“We want to release those people who are trapped under the burden of debt,” he said.
“We have changed the law to give people better options for dealing with unsustainable debts and mortgage arrears, and the personal insolvency service is now up and running.
“And as this economy improves, we want hard pressed families to be able to share in the gain, to be able to aspire again to improved incomes, to advancement and when the country’s finances permit, I hope we will be able to relieve somewhat the burden of taxation on working people.
“I am here because I believe in making our country better. I believe in an Ireland that reflects the basic decency of our people.
“I believe in building a country that offers a fair break for those who want to work hard and provide for their families. That offers opportunity, and the security of knowing that if things go wrong you’re not on your own.”