ST Vincent De Paul vice president Brendan Dempsey said that if Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar thinks that people are wearing fake beards and makeup to fraudulently claim welfare, he needs to prove it.
Speaking after the launch of a publicity campaign encouraging people to report welfare fraud, Mr Dempsey said that he was not seeing welfare fraud at the frontline while dealing with people in difficult financial positions.
"The Minister is making an allegation, and he's telling us how it happened. If people are wearing beards and putting on makeup, then why aren't they arrested and charged?" said Mr Dempsey.
Mr Varadkar's department said that 20,800 allegations of fraud were dealt with last year, with those cases and other measures saving more than €500 million, and that almost 400 cases were referred to either the Chief State Solicitor or the Director of Public Prosecution.
Mr Dempsey said that he wasn't seeing cases like this in the real world and that rhetoric like this was picking on weak people.
"It's easy to kick a dog when it's down. It's disgraceful if this happens and if I knew someone was claiming fraudulently, I would report it. But I haven't. Going back over 40 years, I think there are about seven cases that I can remember of someone being caught," he said.
He said that there were much bigger issues that needed to be addressed, like homelessness and drug abuse.
"Homelessness is appalling at the moment. It's a disaster. There is nothing done for kids who get involved with drugs," he said.