A symbolic ceremony was staged outside the gates of the Dail to mark the cutting of the national minimum wage today.
As the 30th Dail was dissolved by outgoing Taoiseach Brian Cowen, activists protested on what they called Ireland's "Day of Shame".
The coalition of trade unions and community sector organisations have joined forces to campaign for a reversal of the €1 per hour cut to the minimum wage and to protect Employment Regulation Orders (EROs). The group includes Siptu, Mandate, Unite, Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI), The Poor Can't Pay Campaign, The Community Platform, and The National Women's Council.
Anne Costello, of the Community Platform, said cutting the minimum wage to €7.65 will slash an additional €40 a week from the household budgets of tens of thousands of working families across Ireland.
"Families are already struggling to make ends meet, even more so with the additional taxes being taken from their weekly pay cheques," she said.
Protesters carried placards as actor Ger O'Leary re-enacted a historic speech given by trade unionist James Larkin.
Mike Allen, of The Poor Can't Pay, said the cut will increase the numbers of working poor and make it harder for people to escape poverty.
"This is the direct opposite of what we need to be doing to rebuild our economy and society," said Mr Allen.
Siptu's Ethel Buckley, campaign co-ordinator, said the ceremony was the first step to reclaiming the country's sovereignty and building a better Ireland in the name of the 350,000 low-paid workers
"We will also be asking candidates in the general election to make a pledge that if elected they will defend the lowest-paid workers by committing to reverse the cut to the minimum wage and to protect Employment Regulation Orders," she added.
"We will be asking candidates to put hard-working families first - or they'll put them last."
EROs, which set minimum rates of pay and conditions for thousands of workers in Ireland, are under review as part of the Government's four-year national recovery plan. Sectors affected include agriculture, contract cleaning, catering, hotels, and retail grocery and allied trades.
Sinn Fein and Labour supported the protest and vowed to overturn the pay rates,
Willie Penrose, Labour's spokesman on enterprise, trade and innovation, maintained the cut was the last shameful act of a Government that is on its way out.
"It is absolutely unacceptable that this minority Government has proceeded with such a controversial measure on what will effectively be its last day in office," he added.
"It has no moral or political authority to do so."