Taoiseach Brian Cowen has said spending cuts in Ireland are the only way to ensure that international bankers will lend the Government the money needed to run the country.

Speaking at the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting in Co Roscommon, Mr Cowen said the situation was that stark and warned TDs and Senators that they must learn the lessons of the 80s.

He said the job for legislators now was to cut a path through the 'fog of negativity' that was drowning out every voice of reason in the country.

The official agenda of the pre-Dáil think-in focuses on the economy and the second Lisbon Treaty referendum, however talk of Taoiseach Brian Cowen's performance as leader is also expected.

It is believed that even Mr Cowen's staunchest defenders in the party have been disappointed by his leadership.

The meeting is an opportunity for the Taoiseach to re-invigorate his party after a summer of bad political news.

Fianna Fáil is languishing at an all-time low in opinion polls, with support for the party now at 17% in one poll.

The party polled over 41% in the 2007 election.

Farmers protest outside meeting

Around 200 farmers earlier broke through a security barrier at the Hodson Bay Hotel, where the two-day meeting is taking place.

The farmers were protesting against cuts in agriculture spending.

The group rushed through the barrier when Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan arrived, but were moved back from the hotel door by gardaí.

The Irish Farmers' Association has presented the Government with alternative savings in the Department of Agriculture budget.

The association says their plan will more than meet the targets outlined in the 'An Bord Snip Nua' report, while also maintaining funding for vital farm schemes.

At the protest outside the meeting, IFA President Padraig Walshe said it was time for the Government to recognise that repeated cuts on the farming sector were deeply flawed.

He said a different approach was needed that would assist farming through its worst crisis in a generation.