The charity cheese scheme announced in early November by the Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith, began in Ireland this week.

One million dollars in European Union funding will be spent on distributing 53 tonnes of cheese to Irish people who are living below the poverty line.

The distributions will be made between now and Christmas.

More than 300 charities have promised to assist in distributing the cheese.

Following a tender it was agreed that the cheese will be purchased from the Irish Dairy Board.

Each of the charities will be asked to pick-up boxes of 12kg of cheese from stores in various parts of the country.

Each charity will only be allowed one box per collection.

Andrew Doyle, agriculture spokesperson for opposition party Fine Gael, described the new scheme as "ridiculous."

“Fianna Fáil and the Greens gouda be kidding,” he said.

“People on the breadline would rather the Government’s unfeta’d attention was on solving the economic crisis they caused and providing jobs rather than on this ridiculous announcement.”

Smith said Doyle's comments were said with a "complete lack of empathy."

"(he said this without) sensitivity to those who have benefited in the past and will again this year from this EU-funded scheme," said Smith.

The 53 tonnes of cheese made available from this month brings the total to 167 tonnes which will be handed out this year.

Comments have been circulating on social networks such as Facebook about the government's distribution of the cheese.

"Are we really that badly off that we need to get free cheese from our government. We aren't yet in the famine," wrote one Facebook user.