The Irish government has unveiled a new initiative to deal with those living in poverty by utilizing cheese mountains and donating cheese to the poor.

The opposition were quick to attack the new scheme describing it as “ridiculous."

Andrew Doyle, Fine Gael's agriculture spokesman said: "People on the breadline would rather the government's attention was on solving the economic crisis they caused and providing jobs rather than on this ridiculous announcement.

The minister for agriculture Brendan Smith announced the plans yesterday for a European funded scheme that will enable Ireland to benefit from the EU cheese mountains.

Over 50 tonnes of fresh cheddar will be distributed from November 15th in towns and cities throughout the country. The cheese will have been manufactured in Ireland and will be purchased by the government from the Irish Dairy Board.

The minister said the initiative is "an important means of contributing towards the well-being of the most deprived citizens in the community."

"I am very conscious that many people find themselves in difficult circumstances at present and I want to commend the work of the many charitable organisations who are working on the front line to bring what comfort and relief they can," he added.

Doyle disagreed"This shows just how out of touch Fianna Fáil and the Greens truly are. Maybe looking down from their ministerial Mercs, [prime minister] Brian Cowen, Brendan Smith et al think that all the Irish people want or need is cheese. The truth is sadly different.

"It goes to show that they think that providing free cheese will soft soap the electorate and make us all forget the mess Fianna Fáil made of the country and the hardship Brian Lenihan will inflict on everyone. It won't,” Doyle said.

The public were also equally dismayed by the announcement. A caller to RTÉ's Joe Duffy phone-in radio show said: "The fact that Marie Antoinette said 'let them eat cake' was the beginning of the revolution – is that what they want?"

Another caller said: "Have they taken leave of their senses? It's not cheese that people who have lost their jobs are worried about, it's about how they're going to tell their children or grandchildren that Santa has very little money.

"What are they going to tell their children and grandchildren: that Santa has cheese instead?"

The initiative has been welcomed by St. Vincent De Paul, a charity organization that works with the poor in Ireland.