Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said the Government was convinced NAMA would ensure the 'safety, stability and capacity of the Irish banking system'. He said all of these were key to supporting the economy.

He added that there was nothing in the proposed Bill that would provide a 'bail-out' for borrowers, whether builders, developers or otherwise. 'Anyone who owes money before NAMA continues to owe it, and is expected to repay the full amount of the debt,' he said.

Fine Gael's finance spokesperson Richard Bruton told RTE radio the Government appeared to be asking the taxpayer for 'an enormous blank cheque'. He said there appeared to be 'very little in the way of independent oversight' in the proposals.

Labour's Ruairi Quinn said his party would study the Bill in a responsible way, but expressed concern that no limit was being placed on the type of properties to be acquired and the value of the assets to be taken over. 'Despite a figure of €90 billion having been bandied about, there is nothing in the Bill to prevent it from going even higher,' he said.

Sinn Féin's Arthur Morgan descried the plan as 'the crime of the century', with an immeasurable burden of debt on future generations.

The Construction Industry Federation said it would consider the draft NAMA legislation in full consultation with its members. 'As has been stated on a number of occasions, the CIF supports the major restructuring, of which NAMA is an important part, of Ireland's banking system and wider economy,' a statement said.

The Irish Banking Federation (IBF) welcomed the publication of the NAMA draft legislation, saying the agency was central to strengthening banks' balance sheets 'and their capacity to support sustainable economic activity'.

The IBF said the NAMA model had been successfully deployed in other countries where similar challenges existed. 'IBF will be examining the draft legislation in detail and, in consultation with member banks and the relevant stakeholders, will be working with the aim of ensuring its timely progress to commencement and operation,' it said.

SIPTU general president Jack O'Connor said the NAMA Bill had left people little wiser as to the true cost of what he called 'this deeply flawed and potentially very expensive project'.

He said there was no information in the Bill on how 'a deeply inadequate pricing mechanism' for acquiring toxic assets would operate. Mr O'Connor also noted that there was no reference to a levy on banks to recoup any potential losses from NAMA.