Government parties have declined to comment on the recommendations made by 'An Bord Snip Nua'.

Both Fianna Fáil and the Green Party have said they will not be giving reaction to the report today.

The Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes has recommended €5.3bn in potential savings, including 17,300 public service job cuts and a 5% drop in social welfare.

However, Health Minister Mary Harney said she will be engaging in talks with department officials to see how the measures could be implemented.

Fine Gael finance spokesperson Richard Bruton said the recommendations were an important input into the debate about how to correct the public finances and there was a lot to be welcomed in them.

However, he said the strategy needed more than cutbacks and he was disappointed that there was no strategy to create jobs.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore also said the report was an important contribution to the debate.

He criticised the decision to publish the report after the Dáil had broken up for the summer.

Mr Gilmore said: 'This is a serious report, that merits serious scrutiny and discussion, but it must be said that it is also a report that appears to put a price on everything and a value on nothing.

'Any analysis of the report and consideration of its recommendations must include an assessment of likely impact on people and communities.

'Our public finances require surgery, not butchery.'

Sinn Féin's Aengus Ó Snodaigh said that the report targets the most vulnerable in society by slashing social welfare rates.

He said that the report was politically motivated and ludicrous.

PDFORRA, the association representing soldiers, sailors and aircrew, has said it is very concerned that the cuts in the Defence Forces will reduce their capabilities to provide a number of important services.

IFA President Padraig Walshe said the Government should reject the proposed cuts which he said would close down the agricultural sector.

ICSA president Malcolm Thompson also attacked the proposed farming cuts outlined in the report.

Mr Thompson pointed out that the farming sector had already borne the brunt of cuts in the two budgets and was still coming to terms with the disastrous announcement on the REPS scheme.

In a statement the Garda Representative Association said: [We are] outraged and dismayed at proposals to reduce garda pay, close half of all garda stations and privatise part of the policing function.

'The only people who will welcome these recommendations will be the criminal element in our society.'

The Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) is also angry at proposed cutbacks

General Secretary Mike Jennings said: 'At a time when, as a direct result of the recession more young people than ever are planning to enter or remain in higher education, it is simply crazy to seek to reduce staff numbers by 2,000in the sector.'