Thursday 25 August 2016

Does Ireland's public service still serve the public?

Published 30/08/2014 | 02:30

It has emerged frail homeless patients now have to rely mostly on themselves to secure accommodation after discharge
It has emerged frail homeless patients now have to rely mostly on themselves to secure accommodation after discharge

Is it time to ask if policies and procedures in all sections of the public service have become so focused on management systems that the primary function of public service, namely to serve the needs of 'the public', has been compromised.

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Surely the way in which a society is governed is a reflection of the importance our Government, local governments and our heads of public service place on their responsibilities to every citizen of the State?

Media coverage on issues relating to principal private residence taxes, health service inaccessibility, educational disadvantage, homelessness and many other social issues suggests that the systems, policies and procedures and legislation are the primary determinates of how people are treated.

I had always been reared to believe that leaders were people with vision and integrity. When issues were raised in all areas of social governance, I expected that those leaders would respond honestly and openly to provide the rationale for matters that affected ordinary people.

More and more, I have become disillusioned by the silence that seems to permeate the higher echelons of all those with leadership responsibilities

It is not acceptable that countless people are homeless in this country. It is even more unacceptable that Government and local councils claim to be unable to address this problem in a much shorter timeframe than currently proposed.

There are solutions, but only if our 'leaders' recognise the cancerous nature of this deprivation.

It is not acceptable that those in need have huge difficulties in accessing treatment in the public health service. It is not acceptable that access to education is becoming more dependent on economic status and that the notion of equal access for all has been erased.

It is not acceptable that the avoidance of admitting any liability for past injustices governs the responses of our public representatives and indeed the leaders of our public services. It is not acceptable that the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.

There are so many things in our society that are not acceptable and yet those who have been tasked to govern and lead, namely our Government, local councils and heads of the public service, take no responsibility and hide behind systems of governance, policies and procedures which they have constructed.

Fred Meaney, Dalkey, Co Dublin

Nash steps out of bounds

I think Junior Minister Ged Nash needs a quick lesson in political boundaries. Private sector employees' wages are ultimately determined by the businesses that employ them, and should not be the concern of politicians.

The factors that shape such determinations are staggeringly varied, depending on the particular business in question. Interestingly, one significant influencing factor on wage levels in the economy is employment, and this determinant engages the straightforward economics of supply and demand.

If Mr Nash could take Jobs Minister Richard Bruton's lead and contribute ideas that may assist job-growth generally then perhaps he will be doing the State some service - after all, the greater the number of people at work, the higher average wages will be.

It is bewildering to see a Labour minister's focus on increasing the wages of those people already lucky enough to be in employment at a time when unemployment is still exceptionally high.

Talking up the economy is all well and good, but it does little to put money into the pockets of struggling small and medium enterprises, the businesses that have to pay the wages. It might do the minister no harm to remember that.

Keith Winters, Riverview, Waterford


Perpetuating smoking

As someone who has worked for decades on policy measures to reduce the horrendous toll from smoking, it was a great pleasure to read Dr Ruairi Hanley's column on e-cigarettes (Irish Independent, August 29), while I was in this country to drop my daughter off at medical school.

Those people, including some misinformed and misguided officials at WHO, who are seeking to put barriers in the way of a massively less hazardous replacement for smoking are perpetuating smoking.

As Dr Hanley points out, what we need are policies that encourage smokers to reduce their risks rather than the pursuit of an unscientific and inhumane abstinence-only campaign against nicotine. If his clear thinking and compassion for the people he treats is any indication of the views of the profession here, it reassures me that my daughter's choice to study medicine in Ireland was a good one.

David Sweanor, Adjunct Professor of Law, University of Ottawa, Canada

Coalition needs a reality check

We have an official unemployment rate of more than 11pc in Ireland and continuing emigration of our talented young people, yet a big campaign for same-sex "marriage" is the Government's priority for next year (Irish Independent, August 29)?

The current Government needs a further reality check.

John B Reid, Monkstown, Co Dublin

The cock-up to bonus ratio

I wish to ask your readers a simple question, one which they should be able to answer in less time than it takes to read this letter: do they think that Bank of Ireland CEO Richie Boucher's next bonus will be affected by the recent cock-up over payment of wages to various account holders?

Brian Cosgrove, Cornelscourt, Dublin 18

Thank the taxpayer

A Dublin bus just passed me with an advertisement for a building society that reads "We wouldn't have this house if it wasn't for ...".

Wouldn't it be nice to see a large billboard display on behalf of our Irish financial institutions that reads, "If it wasn't for the Irish taxpayer, we wouldn't have a business".

How about it Enda? It would win some votes.

Darren Williams, Dublin 18

Coexistence in the Middle East

Siobhan O Connor's article (Irish Independent, August 29) was inspiring and bold, especially as it comes at a crucial time when we hear about Christians being driven from their homes in droves in Iraq, and other minorities being humiliated and mistreated by Islamic extremists.

It is true that spirituality is seeing things more clearly and that it is through adversity that we gain strength. The recent bombardments of Gaza, and Western governments' repressive policies in Iraq and Afghanistan, have undeniably inflamed tensions between a myriad of religious groups and cultures.

However, religions have always coexisted harmoniously with each other and the Middle East has always been a sanctuary for those fleeing religious persecution.

In Jordan, Christians constitute 7pc of the population. They were in Jordan 600 years before Muslims, making them the most ancient Christian community in the world.

They enjoy political, religious and social rights equal to Muslims, and their rights are safeguarded by the state and the law. They continue to play a leading role in interfaith harmony and all walks of life.

Even in Syria, Christians were safe for centuries. Armenians used to have al Arman neighbourhood (the Armenian quarter in the capital city, Damascus), where they prospered.

At the present time, Jordan is an oasis of stability, tranquillity and peace in a region ravaged with atrocities committed in the name of God.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob, London, NW2

Irish Independent

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