Ministers hammer out budget details
Cabinet ministers were meeting in Dublin tonight to hammer out final details of the budget.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore joined ministerial colleagues in Government Buildings as negotiations over departmental spending approached a conclusion.
The cabinet will meet again early in the week before Tuesday's budget statement in the Dail, which the Government has dubbed as the last of the austerity budgets flowing from the debt crisis.
Tonight's meeting came 24 hours after Mr Kenny confirmed Ireland would exit its strict bailout programme on December 15.
While the Taoiseach has warned that Tuesday's budget will be tough, he has also pledged it will contain "some good news".
He insisted the 2.5 billion euro of tax hikes and spending cuts would serve two key objectives in the public's interest - to reach bailout targets and to allow investment for jobs.
Ahead of the cabinet meeting, Mr Kenny said: "There's a great measure of agreement in a number of areas, it's a collective decision now, so we will be going through all of the details."
In the lead-up to the budget statement, much focus has centred on the health department, amid fears of a significant overrun in spend.
Yesterday, the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) warned that the cumulative effect of recent major budget cuts was forcing Ireland's best doctors to work overseas and making some hospital services - including emergency care - unsustainable at their current level of provision.
Today, Health Minister James Reilly insisted there was no "black hole" in his department's budget.
Addressing other areas of speculation, Mr Kenny earlier ruled out any change to Ireland's relatively low 12.5% rate of corporation tax.
Commenting on the forthcoming exit from the bailout, he said he was not yet sure if Ireland would require some backstop measures to provide future economic security.