The head of the country's largest public service union has accused the Government of having no vision for the kind of society Ireland should have when the economy recovers.

IMPACT General Secretary Shay Cody was responding to an address by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore at the union's biennial conference in Killarney.

He said the most fundamental criticism trade unions would make of the Government was that they did not see a clear vision of what sort of country they would wish to have when the economy improves.

There was no obvious equivalent of the vision that had led to the British National Health Service and the welfare state, he said.

In contrast, he said, it was obvious that some in Irish political life wanted to restore the country to what it was before the crash.

Delegates applauded as he told the Tánaiste that that would not be acceptable.

He said voters wanted to see an end to cuts in vital services before they want tax reductions, and called for a society based on solidarity and well-resourced public services.

Mr Cody also welcomed legislation on collective bargaining announced earlier this week.

He said IMPACT had been at the wrong end of a €1m legal bill when it sought to represent Ryanair pilots.

He described the proposed legislation as an achievement.

He also urged Mr Gilmore to allow Syrian refugees access to Ireland, and announced that IMPACT had made a €150,000 donation to the refugee crisis.

He urged the Government to step up its campaign to reduce Ireland's banking debt burden, which he described as a monster of unjust debt.

The next time the Government and public service unions sit down to talk about pay, it will be about increasing pay, not cutting it, according to Mr Gilmore.

Addressing the conference, Mr Gilmore said that when prosperity returns there would have to be a social dividend benefiting those in the middle and at the bottom, not just those at the top.

He said for the last three years, the Government had effectively been operating on a wartime footing, but that Labour had chosen to sit down at the negotiating table and work through the issues, one by one.

He outlined measures taken by the Government to address the economic crisis since coming to office.

He said that as recovery takes hold and more jobs are created, they should look forward to seeing wages increase and living standards improve.

He cautioned that that must happen in a sustainable way, in both the public and private sectors, ensuring that jobs are protected and the prospect of new employment was secure.

He also said he looked forward to the day when the financial emergency legislation underpinning public service pay cuts would become a thing of the past, though he gave no indication of when that might happen.