IT is being described as the toughest Budget ever -- but the worst could yet be to come.
Families face another crippling €5bn of cuts -- on top of Wednesday's €3.5bn -- before the austerity might end.
TDs were today bracing themselves for a furious backlash from the public as the Government prepares to blitz the middle class with a smash-and-grab Budget.
Budget 2013 poses the first major challenge for the Fine Gael/Labour coalition -- which still intends to introduce two more austerity Budgets during its term of office.
While up to €3.5bn worth of measures will be announced on Wednesday, a further €5.1bn must be saved by 2015.
As a result of our EU/IMF bailout agreement, the public will be expected to stomach a €3.1bn budget in 2014 and a €2bn package of austerity measures the following year.
Sources from both Fine Gael and Labour have admitted that negotiations over where the axe should fall has led to deep tensions between ministers.
"It's been the most challenging few days since this Government was formed. And we all know there is much more pain down the road," a minister said today.
A series of rows broke out at the cabinet meeting at the weekend with personal jibes levelled at different ministers.
Relations became so intense that Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore left the room for a "walk".
The brunt of the Budget cuts has fallen on the shoulders of Health Minister James Reilly and Social Protection Minister Joan Burton.
But there are deep fears among TDs that Dr Reilly's list of cutbacks won't stand up.
There are now mounting tensions between Labour and Fine Gael over his ability to serve as Health Minister.
Coalition relations have been dealt a further blow by reports Education Minister Ruairi Quinn told a private party meeting that some Cabinet members believed Dr Reilly is not up to the job.