Thursday 23 November 2017

Civil service 'putting own privileges before State'

'Mandarins' mandarin' hits out at 'self-inflicted wound' of low status

John Drennan

John Drennan

The civil service elite in Ireland is more interested in protecting their "personal privileges and protected pensions" than they are in the common good, leading mandarin Maurice Hayes has claimed .

He said that as a result the Irish civil service has experienced a similar fall in public esteem to that experienced by other pillars of the State such as the church, banks and political parties.

"What has happened to the service I was proud to work in for most of my career . . . North and South, that it should now be reviled as unfit for purpose and exposed to insult and obloquy?" asked the former senator and Northern Ireland Ombudsman described as "the mandarins' mandarin".

"It is not so long ago since that archetype of the ideal public servant, TK Whitaker, was elected in a popular poll as the Irishman of the century, epitomising the values of honesty and impartiality, respect for the law, respect for persons, diligence, responsiveness and accountability.''

Addressing an audience in NUI Galway he went on to warn that the current low status of the public service was a "largely self-inflicted wound'' because of their attempts to "protect themselves as a caste from the worst effects of the collapse".

Mr Hayes warned that at the top level such an attitude "betrays a lack of leadership'' and "an unwillingness to share the common burden or to put the common good before personal privileges and protected pensions which should exemplify the true Corinthian".

He also had a swipe at those "who now wish to keep open every last isolated police barracks vacated by the RIC in 1933, or those who battle under the banner of Croke Park for the retention of every idiosyncratic bonus or allowance accreted over the decades in circumstances that no longer exist, and regardless of the ability of the State to meet the bill".

Mr Hayes also noted that the current fiscal deficit "largely'' originated within the public service courtesy of "the rapid escalation arising from benchmarking and supine pay settlements'' and slammed the decision to remove public sector pay "from democratic scrutiny and debate by the elected legislature'' in order to hand it over "to the social partnership, including such bizarre groups as Superiors of Religious Orders''.

He said it would be a pity if the present attempts to secure public sector reform were to stop at "fiddling around at the edges with pay and conditions".

This had allowed public pay to get out of kilter not only with the ability of the economy to afford it but in comparison with other competitor countries.

"The wage bill is too high and wage rates in the public sector are comparatively too high and will have to be reduced progressively,'' he said.

"In most occupations and at most levels, Irish rates, if not the highest, are in the top deciles of OECD countries often for less demanding levels of activity."

Irish Independent

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