Public Service Reform Plan

…is here. Minister Howlin’s speaking notes are here.

Comments later, here’s a wordle of the document.

By Stephen Kinsella

Senior Lecturer in Economics at the University of Limerick.

56 replies on “Public Service Reform Plan”

Looks interesting. But WHY does it take a foreign imperative for this to happen? Are we not capable of this in a soverign capacity?

Glad to see another McCreevyism has been put to bed.
Never could understand why nobody pointed out in 2003 that political capitals exist for a reason.
With just a Union vs Gombeen Goverment discussion “informing us”
A rational 2003 strategy would have been Industrial / political separation of our cities – but given that Belfast essentially remains divorced from Dublin we cannot have the Edinburgh / Glasgow like dynamic.

Public Sector Reform? You cannot be serious!.

THE SECRETARY general of the Department of Education and Skills will receive an annual pension of €114,000 per year when she retires shortly at the age of 53.
Brigid McManus will retire in mid-February when her seven-year term expires. In accordance with the terms under which secretaries general were appointed, she will receive a full pension of €114,839 per year. She will also receive an after-tax lump-sum payment of €204,000.
Amid controversy about the huge pension benefits flowing to senior civil servants, Ms McManus is voluntarily waiving an additional severance payment of €126,817 provided for in her contract.

Pensions for private sector workers pushed out to 67 years of age. And 68 by 2028.
Why worry about a two tier Europe. We have our own two tier system together with a transfer union from less well off to very very well off.

These very modest proposals will all be irrelevant within a matter of weeks. The ongoing theft of the private wealth to fund continued public sector largesse shows no signs of abating. The only real reform will be deep & permanent cuts to numbers, salaries and especially pensions. Fortunately, Germany will almost certainly insist a proper public spending correction as a quid pro quo for staying in the Euro instead of the Irish version of “hysterity” that has been implemented to date.

Love the wordle!

Couldn’t help notice how small the font on “new” and “change”….

@ Richard M

“The ongoing theft of the private wealth to fund continued public sector largesse shows no signs of abating”

Wow. Just wow.

@ Chameleon

For example: The private pension fund levy, Lottery win style pensions for senior civil servants, highest paid teachers in Europe, highest paid lecturers in Europe, highest paid public sector middle managers in Europe, one of the most expensive countries in Europe for public utilities. etc…..

An Irish ambulance driver earns as much as a brain surgeon in a properly managed country like Germany.

This lame attempt at reform does nothing to address these discrepancies. If Irish public “servants” think they have seen austerity I suggest they Google “Latvia & IMF” to see what is in store for them in the near future. The sooner we get a proper spending (not tax or a spending cut that is actually a tax e.g. the proposal where employers pay the first 30 days sick leave) correction of €15bn+ the quicker the country can recover. This is going to happen, there is no other alternative. I would refer you to Morgam Kelly’s last oped in The Irish Times where the mechanics of what is going to happen were laid out.

This milk and water effort will be heavily marketed by the government as radical and significant. It is neither of these. Duplication of posts, responsibilities will still persist across local authorities, education institutions, and various state offices that are pinned across every county. It is very difficult to calculate an optimal number of public servants without falling foul of subjectivity, a little on a par with asking someone working with grains of sand have they made a heap yet. The government talks about efficiency but doesn’t make any effort to quantify it. Even with a population increase in the past twenty years, one wonders if a return to public sector numbers of the early 90s should not be clearly identified as as the longer term goal. This would not necessarily involve redundancies in all cases. The Third Level sector could be privatised in its entirety and make its own way. Local councils could hive off more of their operations to private entities. More private health care, etc. instead, what comes across very clearly from this recent document with its reliance on ‘merge’ rather than ‘cut’, is that privatisation is off the agenda, completely.

PR view

At the heart of this reform agenda is a focus on five major commitments to change:

(i) Placing customer service at the core of everything we do;

Put everything online and make it look like the citizen can engage with government when in fact it will all be ‘view only’ and no interaction

(ii) Maximising new and innovative service delivery channels;

Put everything online and maybe even have an iPhone app to view Enda’s speeches

(iii) Radically reducing our costs to drive better value for money;

Put everything online but don’t have any new staff to actually answer any queries as the existing staff won’t – but they will eventually leave when they retire and we won’t be paying their salary then…. er, but we will keep paying their salary rise linked pension

(iv) Leading, organising and working in new ways; and

Put everything on line and put our feet up

(v) Strong focus on implementation and delivery.

Get a private sector company (preferably one owned by a mate of the government) to do all the online putting as our people don’t know what the words ‘implementation’ and ‘delivery’ actually mean.

What hope is there that expenditure reform (define as you wish) can be achieved without lining the pockets of shareholders in Serco, G4S, Capita and the other mega-profitable beneficiaries of public service outsourcing in the UK?

Retrenchment seems to be great for dividends.

@ PR Guy & Richard M +1

Our leader goes to meet Angela with a straight face when we still pay our PS people to retire in their early 50s on €100k plus annual tabs. Methinks we do not give him enough credit for his poker face/negotiating skills.

Then we plan to increase Vat by 2%, increase cost of sick pay to employers. You would wonder if anyone is talking to small/retail business at all. At this stage it seems the country is being run to service the PS/Pensioners and Social.

It will be interesting when the next set of tax numbers are reported, if you guage the mood of a lot of business people they are now fed up to the teeth of increasing taxes and of actually going to the bother of being in business at all. Not good but as they say time will tell all.

have they estimated the costs of the new “smart” initiatives? IBM et al will be licking their lips

@ OllieTwist
“Our leader goes to meet Angela with a straight face when we still pay our PS people to retire in their early 50s on €100k plus annual tabs.”

Let’s keep things in perspective. This kind of pension arrangement is only available to the 14 or so Secretaries General, and very few of them are of the age to retire in their early 50s. And the amounts will be reduced very shortly.

The actual Plan is so bloody vague. I mean barring the headline-grabbing points on PS numbers, decentralisation and State Bodies.

Its so hard to nail down actual policies.

There was a public service reform process in the 1970s. In fact Richie Ryan had the portfolio that Brendan Howlin has now. Mysteriously, in 1977, that momentum died.

The OECD takes up the story a decade later.

The process that led to the programme evolved in the late 1980s and early 1990s following the demise of a major reform programme – Serving the Country Better – which has been launched in 1985. This
programme, though it left its mark in the areas of top management appointments and information technology, was generally not well received and, following a change of Government in 1987, was not pursued thereafter with any great vigour or conviction. Politically, it was seen as closely associated with the previous Government and the new Government, in the context of the then very adverse budgetary situation, did not give high priority to its implementation. Management, for the most part, had not welcomed the programme and were not wholly committed to its
advancement. Insufficient involvement in its development and a widespread feeling that it was being imposed from the centre are generally accepted as the reasons for the relative lack of support

As that report discusses, there was another public service reform effort during 1994-97. The report was written in 1999, but again mysteriously momentum already seems to have been fading as of, say 1997.

I’m struggling to see the common factor in 1977, 1987 and 1997 … maybe an enterprising commenter can help out.

@ Ninap

If i had say €1 for every time thing should be kept in presepctive over last few years…..I’d probably have quite a lump sum at this stage.

If I had a €1 for when this that or other will be reduced or stopped shortly….

Why is it happening in the first place? Why does it have to be redcued shortly, why not now? Last time I checked we were/are a bankrupt state.

How do you we as a country gain any real credibilty when we persist with this facade?

@ Joesph Ryan,

It’s not the non residents you should be worrying about… it’s those who are resident.

@ Richard M,

I would gladly swap my salary for those of a German teacher… provided I could avail of the German tax free credit… which is 8000e as against the 1.8e for the Paddy.

Not all is what it seems.

@Richard M

The private pension fund levy, Lottery win style pensions for senior civil servants, highest paid teachers in Europe, highest paid lecturers in Europe, highest paid public sector middle managers in Europe, one of the most expensive countries in Europe for public utilities. etc…..

I have no doubt that you desperately want to believe all of that. Alas, much of it is demonstrably false.

I work in the Public Sector and I can’t believe the weakness of this report. It looks like it was drafted by the unions and then watered down extensively. Just look at all the wishy-washy language:

• Placing customer service at the core of everything we do
• We will identify…/We will seek to progress …/ We will continue …
• We will seek all opportunities …
• We will streamline …
• Maximising new and innovative service delivery channels …
• Effective engagement with our staff …
• Strong focus on implementation and delivery …

If anyone doubts that this is going nowhere just look at Section 3.4 and bullet point #4 underneath.

However, there’s good news (for public servants) – many new jobs with great titles. Personally, I’d love to get the one called ‘Shared Service Transformation Manager’. Why? Great opportunity to earn loads of expenses travelling around the country checking on progress. A few foreign trips to see how they do things abroad could easily be justified also. Best of all: no real targets and you’d always be able to blame someone else for lack of progress. Just remember to write reports regularly bemoaning the lack of progress and use this to justify recruiting more staff. Very soon you’d have your own little empire.

Those that might call me a cynic should remember that a cynic is just a frustrated idealist.

P.S. Listening to the radio today I can’t believe the number of serious journalists who have bought this nonsense.

Okay, I give up, where is the word ‘savings’ in the wordle? I see expenditure, costs, and value (in very small letters)…


IMHO apart from a small number of “Golden Parachute” jumpers most public servant must be pretty annoyed with their Union reps over this proposed cut in numbers and “reform”.

Instead of modest pay cuts of 5-20% (and a 5% “catch up” increase for new employees) in 2014 , on salary payments over Forty thousand Euro, the size of the public service is going to be reduced further while “PS bashing” will still continue .

Ireland may not be able to afford itś public service and salaries are currently far too high compared to the private sector (and other Public Servants throughout Europe) but that does not mean Ireland does not need itś public service.

Perhaps some Public Servants should remind their union reps that union levies are paid so that the ordinary Jane or Joe Soap is protected, which includes ensuring that they are not the subject of mass resentment within the state.

Jane or Joe Soap will still be union members after the “Golden Parachute” brigade have bailed out and ceased to be union members.

The same fiscal savings could easily have been achieved by 2015 without having much affect on the vast majority of public servants or any further reduction in numbers.

IMHO this is not bad governance (whose main objective is to maintain industrial peace , keep the”lights on” and moderate expenditure) but shortsighted labour representation.


re by “labour representation” I mean Union representation not political representation.


“I have no doubt that you desperately want to believe all of that. Alas, much of it is demonstrably false.”

if there is one thing that’s clear from anything related to the public sector wages and conditions / utility prices / croke park progress / PS reform etc……….it’s that very little connected to these issues is “demonstrably” anything.

IMO – this is part of why there is so much anger directed at public sector pay and conditions. The fact that the public sector, with their armies of statisticians / PR companies / union leaders / government ministers*** / quangos etc cannot put these “rumours” aside makes most people think that what we hear about high pay and generous conditions must be true. We simply don’t have access to enough data to make a quantitative analysis. In addition, the “official” figures are all supplied by errr….the public service.

With the absence of trustworthy data, someone’s views on the issue comes down to anecdotal evidence and comes down to that persons general beliefs about the PS gleaned from urban legends…chats down the pub etc etc….right or wrong..thats what people have to base their views on.

For some reason the public sector wages and conditions issue is not being given the benefit of the doubt from posters like Richard M. To be honest, as an ex public servant…im on his side.

*** see simon coveny’s cringeworthy defence of >100K earning PS workers on last nights vincent browne show.


“I would refer you to Morgam Kelly’s last oped in The Irish Times where the mechanics of what is going to happen were laid out.”

I would refer you to the absolute rape of the public purse, by private “wealth”, over the past 3/4 years. This is real & demonstrable, rather than subjective opinion.
You can count it in billions.


“I would refer you to the absolute rape of the public purse, by private “wealth””

eh??? didnt the raping of the public purse happen as a result of the government assuming full liability for all those debts?

AIB / Anglo etc would have sank like stones if the government had let them. In reality, AIB/BOI/Anglo were not private enterprises at all. AIB have proved this more than once.

In reality these companiesk whether technically public or private, are the same gene pool of the civil service and dail elites that continue to plunder the country’s finances with the support of the likes of Simon Coveny TD.

@stephen kinsella

“verbiage” – i assume you are referring to the Public Service Reform Plan when you use this word. ? If there was ever an example of verbiage, this report is it. The majority of the posts on this thread seem to suggest that some on here agree.

In addition, how are the posts on this thread either “off topic” or “rants” ? How people perceive the public service is key to how reports such as this score points with the voters.

Lastly, for some reason, you don’t seem to agree that excessive PS salaries are relevant to this thread. I would accuse you of bias.

How you can argue that these posts are off topic – on this of all threads ?

So I would urge you to maintain objectivity and let the blog perform its function.


The verbiage is using words like ‘Rape’ when talking about a policy document.

The ‘off topic’ nature of the posts is that there are 60+ pages of recommendations in this document, and people are spouting off about public sector pay.

Fair enough in accusing me of bias, but unlike yourself I blog under my own name, and my thoughts on the Croke Park agreement are on the record in several places. For example:

The function of any posts I moderate are to discuss the topic–in this case an important policy document–not to descend into intemperate rants.

So stick to the topic, pretty please with sugar on top.


If it was a complex document, it would be welcome. Unfortunately it a combination of rehashed reforms. From my limited understanding, the reductions would only turn the payroll numbers back to 2004ish levels. Hardly dramatic. Correct me if I am wrong.

There is no serious effort to calculate the minimum number of public servants required to keep the place ticking over. Now that is a complex task, one that requires giving serious thought to privatisation and involuntary redundancies. But instead the government prefers the fantasy world that sees civil servants retiring on pensions greater than David Cameron earns, and probably greater than any pension Chancellor Merkel will receive.


I agree with your sentiments. An appeal for polemical restraint could be misinterpreted as a cloak for a censorious policy, and one presumes that was not intended.

@ Stephen Kinsella

‘… a very complex document …’. Give us a break! I read documents like this (Service Plans, etc.) all the time and this one was particularly laughable. There is very little specific content. The document I read was full of vague aspirations with not one monetary amount set against any of the targets.

As a Public Servant what I read was, in effect, “Nothing to see here, move on”.

@ JudgeJohnDeedes



IMHO we need to remember that Stephen is the moderator and even if (in his own words) he may be “biased” whn it comes to the Public Service he does an excellent job of ensuring that this site maintains a proper level of decent and valuable debate.

I use a pseudonym (because I know this site is followed throughout Europe which has places where valid individual opinion is not as respected as it is in Ireland) and have strong feelings about certain levels of Irish PS pay.

However IMHO if Stephen feels the thread is turning into “verbiage” or ranting “off topic” then I think we should respect that.:)

This is an excellent site and I learn a lot from it as do (I am sure) a lot of other readers.


This *is* a complex document, it is worthy of study and serious debate rather than immediate dismissal. Take 4.1 on page 16 on proper in house business consulting. This can be a major change if done correctly. Or 9.2.i, implementing a medium term review combined with 9.3 which is a move toward proper accrual accounting frameworks, or 9.7.1 on programme monitoring and evaluation. Again, if done correctly this can really be transformative. Or 11.5.2, on scrapping agency boards. Or legislation on lobbying in 14.2.i. I could go on.

(I think the bias I admitted to is a dislike of the Croke Park agreement, and feel PS pay (including mine) should be cut. The indo article I linked to makes that clear.)

I’m not arguing for censorship, obviously, but for restraint when discussing these issues. We should be able to simply talk about the document–what would it have contained to be credible in your eyes? Are the indicative timelines reasonable? Alchemist rightly says there are no specific staffing targets. That is a huge exercise, but again, worthy of serious study.

I think we would give the readers of this site more if we studied this document and others like it more carefully.

No opportunity to read this today, but to those that have, is there any sign in it of an acknowledgement that the budgetary situation has turned out to be significantly worse than was envisaged in March 2010; that the resultant high level meetings about non-implementation of the Croke Park Agreement (per 1.28) have taken place – and what the outcome was? Are the minutes going to be published?

Or are we all going to continue to pretend the government has no choice but to cut staff numbers and services instead of pay, and to do so without compulsory redundancies so as to guarantee the efficiency gains per redundancy Euro will be very much sub-optimal?

Is it a really rigorous document – not one of those with foundations in fantasy?

@Stephen Kinsella

Loosen up – this is a blog (and a blog needs a bit of bite at times) – not a bunch of supine middle class orthodoxy-captured business students seeking their tripleA rating asap and a ticket to Melbourne …

(course you do have a point; and the students must have picked up something from agency theory as they only seem to march for their own narrow selfish interests – what a boring bunch

Oh for the good ol days of student radicals such as … er .. Ho Chi Quinn, Pat ‘The Lad’ Rabbitte, Eamonn ‘FIREy Gilmore, and that towering FIREbrand of the INTO Inda ‘Da King’ Kenny … wonder where they all ended up?)


On a scan re real dosh/capital – “pretend”

Some positives on certain ‘procedural’ matters

I believe Stephen’s admonitions are justified. The proportion of pseudonyms seems to be on the increase and the ‘rant-level’ seems to be increasing proportionately. I perfectly understand that some people feel compelled to conceal their identities, but, more often than not, it provides the cover just to ‘have a go’. And for those who feel compelled to conceal their identities because of employment or affiliation, I would be more impressed if there was evidence that they were pushing back against this restraint on freedom of speech by an individual.

Those concealing their identities should be required to declare the constraints that compel them to do so. It won’t stop the cowardly sniping, but it might encourage some pause for thought. And it might encourage some consideration of the distinctions between existing, but unjustified, constraints on an individual’s freedom of expression in his or her own name and individuals, unnecessarily, imposing constraints on themselves – and between these and the remainder who are under no real or imagined restraint in terms of revealing their identities, but who want to ‘have a go’ and are too cowardly to reveal their identities.

The decline in posts by the main contributors and, with some notable (and gratefully noted) exceptions, the general unwillingness of these contributors to engage suggests that something is amiss.

I’m not qualified to comment on the detail of the reform programme outlined, but the aspiration/perspiration ratio seems to be a huge number. However, I am interested in the quango rationalisation and, in the contxt of this blog, I am surprised that the proposal on NESC hasn’t attracted some attention:

“NESC: Abolish / disband along with the other bodies in the group (NESDO) having regard to the duplication of functions with the ESRI and the economic advisory role of the new Irish Fiscal Advisory Council.”

I would have thrown the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) into the mix as well, but it’s not clear what the Government has in mind here. I’m probably in a minority of one, but I have frequently advanced the case for reconfiguring all these bodies into a single policy research and analysis entity and having it empowered and resourced by, and reporting directly to, the Oireachtas. But what government in its right mind would concede to the resourcing of effective scrutiny of its policy proposals and proposed executive actions? And this government is more ante-deluvian than most.

The folding of the National Consumers’ Agency into the Competition Authority seems to be a done deal. This decision was made in principle by the previous government and its confirmation and implementation is probably one of the most stupid decisions made by this Government that will have detrimental impacts on broad swathes of the economy. It is just further evidence of how ante-deluvian and reactionary this government really is. The powers and resources of the NCA should be extended and expanded to advocate and represent the collective interests of consumers. Instead it is condemned to ‘institutional aphyxiation’ within the CA in its new guise as the Competition and Consumer Authority. And consumers are condemned to be isolated, atomised, disenfranchised and gouged even more than they currently are.

But who cares once the well-entrenched vested interests are happy and not disposed to rock the boat?

@Paul Hunt/Stephen Kinsella.

Well lets look at the options-This may or may not constitute a rant.

The report is drivel. Why. Of the five major commitments to change three are drivel, (i) (iv) (v), and of the two that are relevant , (ii) and (iii), one is both self serving and untrue.
Lets take the two commitments that are relevant
(ii) Maximising new and innovative service delivery channels;
(iii) Radically reducing our costs to drive better value for money;

The first is essentially a commitment to edelivery. Fair enough. This should be happening every day.
The second, reducing cost is simply untrue.

There are only two ways of reducing cost in any organization, cutting numbers or cutting wages. Cutting numbers will result in poorer service. It might be mitigated to some degree by a shifting of ‘service’ to edelivery but that has definite limitation. You cannot edeliver a garda to the scene of crime or a edeliver a nurse to hospital ward.

Faced with a choice of reducing wages and increasing the level of service, as now committed to, and holding wages at existing levels while reducing staff, the government and PS has opted to keep up wages.
It is a fatal flaw in the whole reform agenda, further compounded by the statement that PS wages will fall by approx 2.5 billion. (Min Howlin, I think). Yes, maybe they will but PS pensions will probably increase by €1.25billion and as most of the retirees are at the upper eschelons the tax/USC take will probably fall by about .5 billion.
So the overall net saving will only be definitely less than 1 billion.

And further €2.5 billion saved on 37,500 people means that the average retired salary is approx ~60,000, all of whom are being retired on pensions of ~30,000 or more.
[I work in an organization where most people do a full years years work for that kind of money.]

I don’t buy this report. Nor do I buy the grandiose payoff scheme that underlies it.
All it will do is saddle the rest of the workforce with the cost of pensions associated with it. We should not expect any improvement in service. The PS will do extremely well to hold service at existing levels, while retirees will be off in the sun or commenting on world affairs on blogs etc.
It is a grossly inequitable solution, the consequences of which will be borne by those continuing in employment in both private and PS and the thousands of unemployed and underemployed throughout the country.

@Paul Hunt

What does NESC do exactly? Forgive me in my ignorance but I am not in Ireland much so I may have missed some important contribution or other it has been making to recovery.

@Joseph Ryan,

I intended no criticism of people like who identify themselves and write with knowledge and passion, as you have in this case; nor of those who contribute constructively under pseudonyms and provide valuable knowledge and insights. (Indeed I believe Mr. Bond should be awarded an honorary pseudonymic doctorate by the NUI and TCD – and that Messrs Zhou, Hogan, Grumpy, DOCM, Bryan G and many others deserve honourable mention.)

As for this topic, I believe it will be a long drawn-out process because the mond-sets that have to be changed have been set for generations and a culture of entitlement has become embedded over the last decade. But, at least, some effort is being made, despite your major and justified reservations.

@all FYI

The Croke Park agreement on public service pay and reform is unsustainable and needs to be renegotiated, the chairman of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee has said.

Speaking after a speech in Dublin this morning, Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness said the pay and pensions of staff in the public service were being protected under the deal.

He said that only 58 per cent of the workforce in the country had a pension while 42 per cent had not.

“But those 42 per cent who cannot afford a pension for themselves are contributing to the pension of the public sector. It is creating a two-tier workforce, it is creating a two–tier pension scheme and it has to be renegotiated.”

@Paul Hunt

Don’t forget John the Optimist, and a good few others ….

It is astonishing that given our circumstances – effectively bust – that aspirational documents such as this one can still emerge.
Just take the quango/semi-state aspirations – utterly inadequate – Varadkar’s report produced while in opposition has been well and truly buried!
Surely the Troika cannot be unaware of the flimflammery that is contained in this document?(Natural wastage will take care of the lower employment numbers)
‘FTI’ will reign – ‘Failure To Implement’ – no direct accountability to any senior manager in the public sector.
Paul Hunt’s ‘FODAR’ win again!

@ grumpy

My mother used to say: expect nothing and you won’t be disappointed.

It will be interesting to get the ‘savings’ data for 2012-2015.

Netting off pension and inducement costs will leave very little.

@ All

This is Irish reform — so it’s a trip on the slow boat to China.

The word ‘will’ is very common and the slow-motion speed of response to what the OECD called in 2008 a quango ‘organisational zoo,’ cannot inspire confidence.

How many people will be paid for doing nothing is relevant because quangos would have people of particular skills and they’re hardly going to make tea for the officers as an alternative.

There simply is no point in moving people to jobs that they have no interest in doing and why would they muster motivation when there is security of employment?

There is no radicalism from the aged socialists; a constitutional amendment would not be required to lift the veil of secrecy on the €15bn public procurement budget but mind transplants may help.

Why should the idea of transparency for public purchases be so shocking?

The issue of resentment about public perks has been raised.

For decades the state broadcaster has threatened the ‘little people’ with shame and embarrassment before the courts for non-payment of the mandatory licence tax.

What is striking is the absence of shame and embarrassment among the so-called RTE ‘stars’ in recent weeks as they feebly justify their outrageous earnings.

The Irish Independent said Marian Finucane earned €513,270 in fees in 2009 for her weekend shows.

She denied working for just two hours each Saturday and Sunday but last night she couldn’t clarify the exact number of hours she works during the week in preparation for the shows.

She said there were “endless hours of research” for her shows, which run from 11am until 1pm on Saturday and Sunday on RTE Radio 1.

“My radio goes on at seven o’clock in the morning and when I’m finished with Vincent Browne (on TV3 at night) I go on to the international channels. That is all part of what I do. I would think it was funny if it didn’t make me cross, but I don’t think anybody believes that (I only work four hours) anyway,” said Ms Finucane.

Tough times indeed! Wonder how the sense of entitlement can spread like a virus.

Historian Richard Hofstadter wrote on the last three decades of the nineteenth century in his renowned book, The American Tradition, which was published in 1948: “From the business of industry the business of politics took its style. Accumulating wealth and living richly, the industrialists set the model of  behavior for the less scrupulous politicians. The wealth they acquired and enjoyed set standards of consumption and emulation; overflowing into politics, it multiplied among politicians opportunities for pecuniary enrichment. Standards of success in politics changed. It was not merely self-expression or public service or glory that the typical politician sought–it was money. Lord Bryce found that the cohesive force in American politics was ‘the desire for office and for office as a means of gain.’ The spoilsmen looked upon political power as a means of participating in the general riches, of becoming wealthy in their smaller ways and by their lesser standards, as did the captains of industry. Never before had the motive been so strong; never before had temptations been so abundant.”

In the context of our economic crisis, public sector reform must entail reduction to a size that we can afford i.e. about half the current size. Such reduction, if accompanied by elimination of waste and inefficiency and prioritizing services to be provided would probably leave all the essential services intact. Many other caring services could be provided by the voluntary community sector at very modest cost.

This proposed reform, like the Croke Park Agreement, is a pathetic pretense at reform. As Richard M says above, “The ongoing theft of the private wealth to fund continued public sector largesse shows no signs of abating”.

We now know what we can expect from this Government i.e. the same level of economic mismanagement as we got from their predecessors. The only hope for economic reform is the formation of a Net Taxpayers’ Alliance that will create an influence equal and opposite to that of the trade unions.

dont know how this works yet……but i will try to put my twopence worth.

The arrogance of paid civil servants to imagine that they can be entitled to enormous salaries and pensions in the current climate…………i receive a state is a great pension, but i know that it is just a matter of time until the state wont be able to pay it.There is more equality between a brown bear and the salmon he cathes in shallow waters.
If a nurse earns about €40G p/a…..then twice that has to be considered about the max any civil servant should entitled to……..and that includes the taoiseach and department secretaries……….and if they can earn more on the street they should be put on the street………Sadly sinn féin are the only ones talking sense……..under no circumstances should anyone from the public service get more than €100G………NO ONE………..and if it takes legislation to make that legal , the government has the majority to do it…….but it has neither the balls nor the brains.
If marian Finnucane cant do her job for less than €100G then there are 400,000+ on the dole and her job should be advertised……………and worse still is the fact that her programme is sponsored by Tesco…………..this is a form of national prostitution…………
The solution to Irelands problems doesnt need any einstein……….”STOP PAYING OUT WHAT WE DONT EARN”

@Thomas Duffy, The Alchemist

There is no doubt in my mind that there are inefficiencies in the public service and duplication of effort*, and that the reduction in public service numbers won’t result in a 100% proportional decrease in service, but the idea that we can cut half the public service staff, or drop to 1990s levels, is frankly ludicrous. Are we going to drop to 1990s level population while we’re at it?

* A prime example of the latter is the fact that the electronic linkage between PULSE and CCTS is incomplete, so that charge sheets entered on PULSE have to be reentered on CCTS.

@Kevin Walsh

Duplication of effort or duplication of posts? The bureaucracy is too big and too expensive,. The country didn’t fall apart with less twenty years ago. Scarcity brings out the best in people. A simple lesson, forgot during the bubble years.

There is no economic reason at all why a small population has to have 30 odd county enterprise boards, local authorities, 20 higher level institutions etc. Any reform program needs to work off determining the minimum number necessary.

@Kevin Walsh

The little economics I know, I learned from my widowed mother. Her repertoire of lectures was limited – “we must live within our means!” and “willful waste brings woeful want!”. If we have revenues of approximately €30 billion, we can afford a current expenditure of approximately €25 billion [Including social welfare], which is about half our current spend. It is as simple as that. We must look at our existing spent, eliminates waste, prioritize and keep cutting from the bottom up until we reduce expenditure to €25 billion. Failure to to do that means that we are living beyond our means and expecting the next generation to pay for our profligacy. This is unconscionable!

Culture takes a long time to change and an IPA report last week on European pay comparisons showed that the Victorian tradition remains strong in the Irish public service.

The IPA says comparing compensation levels at the different Irish public sector grades, there is a distinct difference that emerges between Ireland and the UK and the Nordic countries of Finland, Denmark and Sweden.

The Nordic countries have a much flatter compensation structure (particularly Finland and Sweden), whereas the UK and Ireland have opted for higher compensation at the higher levels. On average, top managers compensation in the UK and Ireland is 7.7 times that of secretaries whereas for the Nordic countries top managers compensation is 3.5 times that of secretaries. Similarly middle managers compensation is 4.15 times that of secretaries in the UK and Ireland and 2.20 times greater in the Nordic countries.

What could we learn from those dozy Nordics?

Noel Whelan’s piece in The Irish Times today on the egregious threshing of the rights of a citizen by a state agency and the ducking of responsibility, shows what a long road is ahead to develop a system of accountability.

We do not have much of a civic culture and the attitude of grabbing what can be got away with from the public purse is strong.

We’ve plenty evidence of the type who might skin a flea for a ha’penny in their private lives, but with a public credit card and a €50,000 limit, scrounge as much as they can.

There is hope though.

Tomorrow is World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims and Greece, the land of few rules, has Europe’s highest road death fatality rate at 13.8 per 100,000.

Ireland is among the countries that have achieved dramatic reductions in recent decades and Sweden has the world’s lowest at 2.8 per 100,000.

Sweden has both strong public and private sector traditions.

Dramatic fall in road deaths in developed world; 90% of world’s fatalities in developing countries

@ Chameleon

Since you are fond of quoting MK, this then from the same article must have escaped your attention

“To borrow so that senior civil servants like me can continue to enjoy salaries twice as much as our European counterparts makes no sense, macroeconomic or otherwise.”

MK’s contributions to the debate have been patriotic as much as extraordinary prescience.

@ JudgeJohnDeedes

Coveney did himself untold damage. People could hardly contain their rage, and to think, I thought he would have made a good leader. First out the door now! Mother of God what on earth was I thinking? Talk about a mask slipping, I nearly got out the pen and ink to tell him how deluded he is. Then again I called for the resignation of Mary Harney at least 100 times including hand delivered letters to the Dail. But wait and see who will have the last laugh this.

It’s probably significant that this thread which deals with governance in Ireland has attracted 53 comments, while the previous thread where comment has focused on how the assertion of the primacy of the Bundestag over the Federal Government has hurt Ireland’s tender sense of propriety has atttracted 164. And it is perhaps equally significiant that the intent of the original post was to avoid any consideration of governance issues.

The increasing assertion of the primacy of parliaments in the northern EU states is pefectly understandable. Voters there were sold a pup and they’re not best pleased. Hopefully this spasm of national parliaments asserting their primacy, though a very necessary corrective, will pass and a more effective application of the Community method will be secured. Ireland is so far off the pace in relation to this need for parliament to assert its primacy over government that it is almost surreal. We really are On Another Planet.

And it’s not that we don’t have the tools. In 1922 we adopted a well-structured and effective system of parliamentary democracy that had been 800 years in the making and which Irish politicians from Grattan through O’Connell to Butt and Parnell led Irish people to use effectively in their interests. Despite an ability to use this system to exercise restraint very effectively on a foreign power elite – and to break with it eventually – we never developed the ability to apply this system to impose effective democratic governance on native power elites. And the 1937 Constitution entrenched the power of goverment and terminally weakened the Oireachtas. And since then the increasing impotence of the Oireachtas has become the custom and practice.

I would contend that Irish people, up to independence here and continuously overseas since the mid 19th century, were, among all peoples with a national bond, the most effective producers and consumers of democratic governance. Why can we not apply this in our little national patch?

The cliche ridden comments in response to this piece reflects the spectacularly lazy, ill informed, dull, unimaginative mindset of our private sector.

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