Elderly Irish people have been trapped in their rural homes since Christmas as frozen roads have not been treated by cash-strapped local authorities.

Opposition spokesman Fergus O'Dowd of FIne Gael says "lives and limbs are in danger because of irresponsible government cutbacks."

Conor Faughnan from Ireland's AA car insurance firm said that the police are seriously concerned that local councils are unable to grit major roads with salt or sand.

Local authorities have been unable to replenish stocks of salt because they have run out of money.

Many local authorities have been forced to grit only major roads and have left secondary roads in dangerous conditions.

For instance, an elderly couple have been marooned in their home in Co Sligo for eight days.

John and Patricia Hannon told the Irish Independent that they managed to get out for Mass on Christmas morning but it was "an awful struggle."

The Hannons' home in Battlefield, near Culfadda, is just over a mile from a main road and none of the access roads have been treated.

Mrs Hannon said they have been stuck fast by the ice. "We haven't been able to put a foot outside the door. The ice is frozen inches deep outside and it is lethal."

The executive engineer in Sligo, Paddy Hughes, said: "There is a budget issue. National primary roads are always done first."

The Irish charity for elderly people, Age Action, has urged people to make contact with elderly neighbors. Gerry Scully said: "It's really desperate that people cannot get out. We would ask people to get in touch by phone. If an older person cannot be reached perhaps the gardai can try and call in."

In Mayo, Irish bank worker Mary Goldrick has been stranded in her parents' house in Swinford, County Mayo, since before Christmas.

Road safety spokesman Shane McEntee said that "despite the ongoing warnings of bad weather, local councils are not managing to do their jobs in making icy roads safe for motorists."

"This seems to be because funding has run out at a time when it is critical that councils have the resources to put in place essential road safety measures during adverse weather conditions, like the gritting of roads," he said.

Cork County manager Martin Riordan said that half of the councils budget had been cut and that the council was unable to grit secondary roads.

O'Dowd said that the "irresponsible budget cuts could cost lives".