The Cabinet meeting to discuss the budget strategy has finished in Farmleigh.

Ministers began to arrive at around 6pm and the meeting lasted for around six hours.

The meeting takes place ahead of this week's Dáil debate on the economy and after renewed warnings that in addition to increased taxes, there will be severe cuts in health, social welfare and education.

The multi-annual plan is due to be finalised in the next three weeks and sent to Brussels.

On arrival at the event, Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith said tough decisions will have to be made and all areas of Government expenditure will be examined.

Minister for Tourism, Sport and Culture Mary Hanafin said the Government will do 'whatever it takes and will work day and night to get a fair budget.'

Speaking on RTÉ’s News At One, Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said the Budget was going to be tough and difficult for all, but the Government would try to make it as fair as possible.

The first of two pre-Budget sessions discussed plans to reduce the Budget deficit to 3% by 2014.

Amid the fallout of a dramatic fall in poll ratings for Fianna Fáil yesterday, the Government is under huge pressure to address the national finances in a way that convinces international bond markets.

Last night, speaking on RTÉ’s The Week In Politics, Minister for Children Barry Andrews underlined the difficult choices ahead when he said painful decisions will be made on welfare payments and educational spending may also face serious cuts.

The immediate challenge for the Cabinet is to agree exactly how severe December's Budget will be.

If the Government is to keep to the target of bringing the deficit down to 10% next year, that would mean a €7bn package of taxes and spending cuts.

Many fear cuts of that magnitude would inflict more damage on the economy.