Tánaiste and Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore has told his party's conference that Labour has a duty in Government to guide the country through the current crisis and take it back from the profiteers.

In his opening address, Mr Gilmore said that the party's 100-year history was characterised by hard fought battles and achievements, and that the party was at its best when it was at the centre of politctal debate.

He said the party had to take part in creating a new Ireland and building a new Republic in the past century.

Mr Gilmore said Labour had been at the heart of democracy and progress.

He criticised those who sought to write Labour's contribution out of the official histroical script by taking what he called a Celtic-Rangers view of Irish history.

Speaking on his arrival at the Labour Centenary Conference in Galway, the Tánaiste said it was a challenging and difficult time but that the Government would do everything in its power to address economic recovery and help people return to work and pay their mortgages.

Asked about the protests planned around the conference, Mr Gilmore said It was no surprise that there would be so many protests.

The Tánaiste has said that the reality is that there is no magic bullet, no overnight solution to sort out this economic crisis.

But he said progress had been made on the renegotiation of the IMF deal, on exchanging promissory notes for a long-term bond, on reversing the cut in the minimum wage and introducing a budget that did not increase income tax.

Mr Gilmore was asked about Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton meeting businessmen Denis O'Brien at the same event that the Taoiseach shared a stage with him.

Asked if this smacked of hypocrisy given that she had been so vocal about Enda Kenny, the Tánaiste said this issue was a big distraction from getting on with the process of Government.

He said ministers would have to go around wearing cloaks and cross the street if certain people were seen to be coming towards them.

He said politicians are public representatives and this is part of their job. They have to engage with people.

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte told the conference that he has prioritised schools in 13 counties in the west of Ireland for the roll out of high-speed broadband.

Minister Rabbitte said the scheme would transform the learning space for teachers and students alike.

Making the announcement, Minister Rabbitte said it would debunk what he called 'the latest canard' that Labour was anti-rural.

The broadband project would be completed by September 2014, the Minister said.

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has warned that the welfare system in Ireland has to reform or it will collapse.

The Minister appealed to delegates for patience in seeing through reforms to make every social welfare cent count in order to end poverty.

Earlier, Brendan Howlin said there are those in the party who would have preferred the "comfort of Opposition", but there were more who believed the party had to take up the difficulties of being in Government.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio, Mr Howlin, the Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform, said people were aware of the challenges the Government would face when it was elected.