“The minister should withdraw the comments,” said James Dooley, deputy director of the National Youth Council of Ireland.
Mr Noonan, speaking to a group of business leader at a Kilkenny Chamber lunch, said some people on the dole are “allergic” to employment and “will never work”.
While promising to guarantee a job for everybody who wants one in the “next couple of years”, Mr Noonan hit out at those who opt to get by on social welfare.
“He should not be attacking people who have borne the brunt of the economic crash, in particular young people shut out of the labour market,” said Mr Dooley.
“We welcome the recent growth in employment, but there are still many young people who, despite all their efforts, are struggling to find work. The Government should be focusing on supporting young people into jobs with decent pay and security rather than making comments with little basis in fact.”
Mr Noonan was also taken to task by the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed who described his remarks as ‘disgraceful’ and an outrage.
“Minister Noonan had no right to say this,” said Bríd O’Brien, head of policy and media at the INOU. “Some unemployed people, such as myself, would rather work voluntarily than not work at all and I can assure you that I have done my share of voluntary work.
“I have a masters and have worked hard every day of my life. I am not allergic to work — be in paid or unpaid. I take on any job I can get and I’m disgusted at Minster Noonan. Let him spend a day in the shoes of a ‘tiger-cub’ qualified and currently unemployed and see how demoralising it is.”
Political opposition to the minister’s remarks were equally trenchant.
Fianna Fáil’s spokesman on jobs, Dara Calleary, said Mr Noonan’s comments were “not only arrogant and rude, they were ironic”.
“People who are genuinely trying to get back into the workplace will feel stigmatised by these dreadful comments,” he said.
Sinn Féin senator Kathryn Reilly described them as “completely derogatory” while SF councillor Kathleen Funchion, who is contesting the Carlow-Kilkenny by-election, called them a “disgraceful slur” on the unemployed.