The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has accused the Government of ignoring the jobs crisis, and failing the 435,000 people currently out of work.

In a May Day statement, ICTU General Secretary David Begg said Government inaction had ensured that long-term unemployment and emigration were central features of Irish life again.

Mr Begg said the entire apparatus of Government seemed ‘utterly transfixed’ by the banking crisis, while those who had lost their jobs had seen their benefits cut.

‘There appears to be a bottomless pit for the senior bankers that caused this mess - and the jobless are told to wait in line, literally,' he said.

‘For there to be any sense of justice or of a burden being shared, Government must move with urgency to give the jobs crisis equal billing with the banking crisis,' he added.

ICTU said this year's annual May Day march in the centre of Belfast had the biggest turnout for several years.

Union speakers told hundreds of people who attended the rally that they would be fighting cutbacks in the public sector.

They also urged voters in Northern Ireland not to vote along sectarian lines in next week's UK general election.