FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan has said we face several more years of hard budgets and repeated a warning that the size of December's Budget cuts could exceed €3.6bn.
The European Commission and the International Monetary Fund would demand that Ireland keep the deficit at no more than 8.6pc of GDP next year, Mr Noonan said. He hinted last week that €4bn may need to be slashed from state spending.
"Deficit and debt numbers serve to highlight the importance of continuing to implement budgetary and economic policies to return sustainability to our public finances," Mr Noonan told the select committee on finance and public expenditure.
"The task of restoring sustainability to the public finances will be a long one and further difficult choices will have to be made in this regard in Budget 2012," he said.
Mr Noonan added that "economic activity had started to pick up again".
He gave further details about the Fiscal Advisory Council, which will offer advice on whether budgetary policies are sound and prudent but their views won't be binding.
The five economic advisers won't be paid although support staff, including two economists and two staff, will be paid.
The council was formed as a condition of the bailout.
The Government is spending €300,000 on the council in the final six months of this year and will spend more next year.
It will be chaired by Prof John McHale, of NUI Galway, who predicted it would take a "lot of the Punch and Judy show out of politics".
Mr Noonan also revealed his department had seconded two officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs -- one from Berlin and one from Paris -- to help with languages and negotiations.