Sunday 20 October 2019

Ministers urged to sweeten pill of austerity


Chris Parkin

THERE is nothing new about the Government's efforts to sweeten the pill of measures needed to stave off a worsening economic crisis.

Back in 1981, a detailed document from the Department of Finance offered a blueprint to ministers, senior civil servants and advisers on "a basic framework for getting across the rationale of government economic policy to the people".

It declared "since the implementation of VAT increases announced in the last budget, government economic policy has come in for considerable criticism.

"Over the coming months, a number of opportunities will arise for the government to hammer home the necessity for the present economic policy."

Displaying rare optimism, it also looked forward to the time when the publication of an economic and social plan would "provide a positive face to government policy".

All ministers were urged to travel around the country delivering the government message, emphasising policies to particular interest groups at firsthand, adding -- equally optimistically -- "it is likely that favourable press publicity will follow any such trips".


The aim, said the document, was "to convey the impression of a strong and determined government, working to overcome initial difficulties with a view to solving the twin problems of unemployment and inflation.

"We must secure public confidence and support for our plan," it added.

Meanwhile, pressure to justify almost every penny spent permeated most areas of the public services.

The late Liam Hourican, in his first few months as Government Press Secretary in the coalition government of Garret FitzGerald, was asked to explain bills as small as stg£12.10 when entertaining 12 people -- at a cost of marginally more than stg£1 per person.

And the Taoiseach himself was asked to explain the time he spent £37.88 on guests at Dublin's prestigious St Stephen's Green club.

At the other end of the entertaining scale, Charlie Haughey incurred a bill of £3,811.80 when he entertained Margaret Thatcher and her entourage at Dublin Castle earlier in the year.

Irish Independent

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