Irish people have been to "hell to back" as a result of six long years of austerity, Eamon Gilmore has said.
The Labour leader told his party conference that many families are "existing, rather than living" and predicted that 2014 will be the most important year since the the economic crisis began.
But the Tanaiste again signalled that tax cuts are on the way for those living on the bread line.
Several hundred Labour members attended the conference in Enfield, Co Meath yesterday where significant focus was paid to the upcoming local and European elections.
The mood was upbeat as delegates were told that the party would not allow the country to return to the days of the Celtic Tiger.
In his leader's address last night, Mr Gilmore gave an honest assessment of the major financial challenges facing families and workers.
"Too many of our people are still just getting by from day to day, and from week to week. Existing, rather than living. Too many people are worried about what next week and next month will bring, and about the future of their children," he said.
Mr Gilmore kicked off his speech by paying tribute to the worker who yesterday lost life while trying too restore electricity lines in Cork which were damaged by the recent bad weather.
He also recognised the families who have been badly affected by the floods and storms of the past few weeks.
Mr Gilmore's speech contained no concrete examples of his party's plans to ease the burden on hard-pressed families.
However, he indicated that a reprieve is on the way.
Of course, there is still a long way to travel. But, if we stick to the task, if we are clear about our destination, then there is hope again. But, our job is not yet done. Our mission not yet complete," he said.
"And this year, 2014, may be the most important year since the crisis began.
Because the choices we make now, as we leave the bailout behind and as we embark on recovery: these are the choices that will shape our future, this year, next year, and for years to come," he added.
Earlier, Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin told a party workshop that the most "privileged" groups are mounting the greatest resistance to change.
"The most resistant group I have come across are the most privileged. There is a sense of entitlement in some cohorts, which is absolutely extraordinary."
Mr Gilmore claimed credit for Ireland's restored international reputation and said the government will not engage in the "fairytale economics" professed by Sinn Fein.
He told the conference that not a single "corrupt payment" has been made to a Labour councillor.
"There has never been a “for sale” sign on this Party, and there never will be."