The EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner has said that Ireland would benefit from having medium-term budget planning.

Speaking at the Institute of European Affairs, Ollie Rehn said there were clear social and economic benefits to better medium term planning.

Earlier, Mr Rehn told Opposition finance spokespersons the €15bn in budgetary adjustments required for Ireland over the next four years could be re-negotiated, depending on economic growth.

Following a meeting with Mr Rehn this morning, Fine Gael's Finance Spokesman Michael Noonan said he was told that the EU would closely monitor growth rates, which could affect the overall figure.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Labour Finance Spokesperson Joan Burton said she got the impression that the €15bn was a negotiated target and not an exact figure.

Ms Burton said that Labour conveyed its view that the €6bn cuts in December's Budget would be too much.

Sinn Féin's leader in the Dáil, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, said he told Mr Rehn that excessive austerity measures will 'kill confidence' in the Irish economy and he urged the Commissioner to reconsider.

Mr Ó Caoláin said that he told the Commissioner that the Irish budget deficit cannot be brought down to 3% by 2014.

He said that Mr Rehn gave an undertaking to study Sinn Féin's view further, and that the party is for a 'consensus for recovery', but not for cuts.

Meanwhile, Mr Rehn has welcomed the Government's commitment to bringing the budget deficit below 3%.

Mr Rehn said he looked forward to seeing a greater level of detail when the Government publishes its four-year plan.

Earlier, the Commisssioner paid a courtesy call to Taoiseach Brian Cowen at Government Buildings at around 7.45am.

He also met the social partners, including an IBEC delegation and an ICTU delegation led by Congress President Jack O'Connor.

ICTU General Secretary David Begg said that while Mr Rehn did not share the views of the trade union, he acknowledged it was a question of judgement as to how to deal with the economic crisis.

Ireland's cost of borrowing remains high this evening. The interest rate demanded by investors to lend money to Ireland for ten years stands at 8.14%.

Last night, following a meeting with Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan, Commissioner Rehn called for political consensus to back measures to cut the Budget deficit.

He said the crash after the Irish credit boom and property bubble hit the banking sector, the public finances and the Irish people very hard.

However, Mr Rehn said there were positives as well as negatives, including Ireland's well-educated, skilled and flexible workforce.

Following the meeting, Mr Lenihan said the European Commission was not here to dictate policy to the Irish Government.

Growth queried

The Taoiseach has told the Dáil that if we fail to close the gap created by the €19bn deficit, the ability to fund ourselves on an ongoing basis would be put at risk.

Mr Cowen said Mr Rehn had indicated support for the policy of frontloading cuts to expenditure in the forthcoming budget.

He was responding to Labour leader Eamon Gilmore who asked the Taoiseach how the Government expected growth of 1.25% next year following cuts of €6bn when there had been zero growth recorded in the aftermath of €4bn of cuts last year.

The Taoiseach also rejected that 100,000 householders were in difficulty with their mortgages saying the figures were overstated.

He said 70,000 mortgages had been restructured and just 36,000 of these were in arrears.

Mr Cowen said of the 1m mortgages in the country, 930,000 were being serviced according to the original arrangements with the banks.

The Taoiseach was responding to Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny who asked what measures the Government was taking to deal with what he called the ensuing storm of distressed mortgage holders.