Wednesday 21 March 2018

Noonan warns of overhaul in top ranks of public service

Fionnan Sheahan and Michael Brennan

FINE Gael's Michael Noonan, the favourite to become Finance Minister, set down a marker with the country's top civil servants that he intends to overhaul the higher ranks of the service.

Fine Gael and the Labour Party's coalition negotiators are understood to have been unimpressed by the level of expertise at the top of the public sector and the lack of direction and planning in managing the economic crisis.

Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore are continuing to hammer out details of who will get ministerial portfolios ahead of the election of the new Government tomorrow.

The European Commission has welcomed the incoming Government's "strong commitment" to the economic policy goals, reflecting the Coalition's commitment to cutting the Budget deficit.

Several departments will be changed and Fine Gael and Labour Party leaders will pick the new Cabinet before the Government is appointed.

Fine Gael will have 10 cabinet members with Labour getting five plus a super junior minister who sits at the cabinet table.

Mr Kenny and Mr Gilmore spoke on the phone yesterday and will discuss the make-up of the new Cabinet during talks over the next 24 hours.


But some party sources say Mr Kenny has already made his mind up on who is in and out of the Cabinet.

Both parties are making a strong play on the splitting up of the Department of Finance.

Labour deputy leader Joan Burton is expected to be put in charge of the new department for public service and expenditure, with Mr Noonan given the old finance department and keeping economic and fiscal planning and banking.

Coalition sources say Mr Noonan's understanding of the intricate detail of the economic situation was quite striking during the briefings received by the negotiators last week.

"There is a recognition there needs to be a freshening up and a renewal of expertise," a source said.

After senior mandarins claimed they were vindicated by a report last week on the report of the Department of Finance during the Celtic Tiger and economic crisis years, the department is facing a major overhaul.

The Programme for Government specifically says: "We will bring new talent and skills into the Department of Finance."

The pledge to bring "new personnel from outside the current system" will shake up cosy relationships in departments.

The era of promotions to high-level positions being based on seniority and length of service will be dealt a hammer blow.

The new Government is promising that all appointments at middle-management level and upwards will be opened to private sector applicants. A third will actually be reserved for people from outside of the existing civil service.

Labour deputy leader Joan Burton said the new Programme for Government was very ambitious.

Irish Independent

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