Thousands of children will be hungry and cold if the Government rolls out cost-cutting plans signed off by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), it has been claimed.
A leading children's rights campaigner warned any cuts in social welfare payments or the minimum wage will directly affect underprivileged youngsters across the country.
Fergus Finlay, Barnardos chief executive, called on politicians not to agree to any plan that will plunge households further below the breadline.
He said: "There are thousands of families in Ireland who live at or below the poverty line. That means there are thousands of children below the poverty line. Those children are hungry, cold and at risk of ill health because they live in damp unheated houses. I can't think of a single good reason to make things worse for those children."
On Monday, the IMF issued an academic paper, signed off by lead negotiator in Dublin Ajai Chopra, that minimum wage and dole payments should be cut.
Meanwhile, embattled Taoiseach Brian Cowen and his Government are finalising a 15 billion euro four-year savings plan to be published on Wednesday.
Social justice campaigner, Fr Sean Healy, claimed the IMF's approach intended to save banks and big businesses while targeting the weak, poor, sick, unemployed and marginalised.
He said: "These proposals are tailor-made to make sure the working poor group will be in deeper poverty."
Fr Healy maintained proposals to cut social welfare payments to make people go back to work were nonsense and added: "What jobs are they going to take up? There are 450,000 people unemployed. The jobs are not out there."
The Society of St Vincent de Paul maintained people on social welfare and low wages should not have to pay the price for Ireland's economic woes.