ICTU General Secretary David Begg has said he is ‘shocked’ by the severity of the Budget and that it will drive the economy deeper into recession and ultimately cost thousands of jobs.

He said the Government had done nothing to create employment.

Mr Begg said public sector pay cuts were well flagged but remained a real blow to people working in the sector.

The employers' group IBEC has warmly welcomed the Budget.

IBEC Director General Danny McCoy said: 'This budget is a turning point as it stops the deficit rising and puts Ireland on a sustainable path. The right thing to do is the hard thing to do, and the right thing has been done.'

Mandate said that the Budget represented an unfair burden on low income families, particularly in relation to the cuts to social welfare payments.

It said the decision to cut basic social welfare rates by 4.1% will have a severe impact on the most vulnerable in society.

The reduction in child benefit of €16 per month will also impact heavily on low income families, it said.

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation has said that public service workers and their families are to ‘pay for Government’s disastrous handling of the economy’.

The INTO said that ‘hardworking public servants and their families had been squeezed yet again to pay the price of the economic crisis’.

Ireland’s largest public service union IMPACT strongly criticised the Budget for 'sacrificing long-term public service reform for short-term political expediency'.

The Irish Nurses Organisation said the pay cut announced today for public servants was ‘grossly unfair, short-sighted, damaging and provocative’.

The INO said that the cut will result in ‘grave hardship’ for many.

INO General Secretary Liam Doran said that they will play ‘a very active part’ in every aspect of the campaign, to be finalised by all public service unions, which will begin shortly to seek the reversal of this ‘draconian and short-sighted measure’.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors has deplored what it called 'the attack on its members' in the Budget and the decision to impose pay cuts on low income public servants.

AGSI is part of the 24/7 Frontline Services Alliance representing 100,000 public sector workers.

Elsewhere, the Construction Industry Federation described the Government’s decision to cut nearly €1bn from its capital investment programme as 'a blow to jobs in its sector.' It said it would significantly impact the Exchequer through lost tax income and increased social welfare payments.

However, the CIF welcomed the continued availability of full mortgage interest for first-time buyers who purchase their new homes in 2010.

Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland Jim Clarken said his organisation was ‘extremely disappointed that the Government have piled further cuts on the massive 24% cut applied earlier this year’.

On the decision to cut overseas aid by €25m Oxfam said: 'In addition to cutting the aid budget the Government has now, yet again, broken a promise to the world's poor.'

Youth Work Ireland said cuts in welfare to young people is 'pure cynicism'.

The youth organisation described cuts to welfare payments for young people as 'a cynical move when contrasted with the 30,000 young people turned away from education courses last October'.

ASH Ireland said it was very disappointed that Minister Lenihan has not increased the price of tobacco in the Budget.

The anti-smoking group says price is regarded as the most important device in encouraging smokers to quit and discouraging young people from experimenting with tobacco.

However, the Chairman of the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland Kieran Tobin has warmly welcomed the decision to reduce excise rates by 20%.

Mr Tobin said this cut, combined with the planned VAT reduction, will come as ‘a great relief’ to consumers, retailers, to the pub and hospitality sector, and the wider drinks industry and ‘will repatriate some of the revenue currently being lost to cross-border trade’.

Meanwhile, Friends of the Earth has given its initial reaction to the introduction of a carbon tax saying ‘it is an important piece of the jigsaw in tackling climate change’.

The National Campaign for the Arts said it is ‘relieved and pleased’ the main arts and culture agencies retained their budget.

The Irish Hotels Federation welcomed the 'strong and decisive action' taken by the Minister for Finance and the Government, towards restoring the public finances.

The Federation said it particularly welcomed the acknowledgement by Government of the 'important role of tourism in the economy'.