The leader of the Irish opposition party Enda Kenny began his general election campaign on Sunday with the dramatic claim that he would need 10 years in power to repair the economy - even before his party, Fine Gael, has won a single vote.

Despite lingering questions over the strength of his leadership, Kenny told the Irish press he would go to voters with an economic and public-service reform plan based on being in office for two full terms.

However critics suggest that by talking about a projected 10 years in power, Kenny risks being seen as overly cocky by the electorate. Kenny also refused to outline the scope of the painful measures that would have to be imposed on the Irish public - apart from the introduction of water charges.

During his interview with the Irish press Kenny admitted there was no pain free way to restore the public finances, however he ruled out tax hikes, and he admitted his party did not have a policy on property tax.

'What I am at here in putting the party on an election footing is to say that this is not just about, sort of, stumbling across the line,' Kenny told the press.

'It is to set a 10-year program to restore soundness to Ireland's finances, and to set out a programme of how you provide services that can really stand up to best level now - be it in education, the public service, the whole health system, all that potential that exists in terms of infrastructure. And you cannot and won't do that in five years. We will be setting out a 10-year programme,' he added.

'As a general principle we have said we don't see the way forward as increasing taxes. We have said do it on current spending, go back to what we have lost in this country, which is competitiveness and export growth, where there is now serious potential,' he said.

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