Thousands protest government salary and budget cuts

The Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen says that the Irish economy "has now reached a turning point" and that Ireland is on the brink of recovery and renewal.

Cowen says the challenge Ireland now faces is "to move, with confidence and ambition, into a new phase of recovery and renewal."

The Taoiseach was addressing a regional conference of his party, Fianna Fail, and he also called on the banks to play their part in helping that effort.

“Our position is simple -- if the banks are not working for small business, then it is our responsibility as a government to make sure that they do,” Cowen said.

“The Irish people stood up and backed the banks of Ireland in their hour of greatest need. Now it is time for the banks to stand with the Irish people, to do their job responsibly, and to provide credit to viable Irish businesses that are the engine of job creation.”

Cowen's speech came as a new opinion poll in Ireland showed a majority of Irish people believes the country is headed the wrong way.

A total of 47 percent said Ireland was heading the wrong way while just 36 percent said the government was doing the right thing.

The same poll also recorded a small increase in support for the government.

Fianna Fail edged up one point to 24 percent support and second place behind main opposition Fine Gael, according to the Sunday Business Post poll.

The Labor Party, which had been in second place, dropped to 22 percent, still one of their highest showings.

Fine Gael dropped three points to 30 percent, which still puts them in the lead.

Sinn Fein also showed a large rise in the poll, going from six to 10 percent.

The Greens, who share power with Fianna Fail, are at five percent, meaning that both government parties combined have just 29 percent support at this time.