Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said that public servants, including those who have retired, deserve a pay increase amid controversy over the decision to go ahead with pay rises for higher-paid doctors, judges and civil servants.
Mr Varadkar made the comments at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting this evening where he said he believes there is a good possibility of the Government striking a pay deal with public sector unions.
Talks between Government and unions at the Workplace Relations Commission collapsed last week after unions rejected an offer of an incremental pay increase of a further 5pc for the State’s 340,000 public servants.
Mr Varadkar told his party that such discussions have setbacks and can take time, but he is keen to come to an agreement with the unions which will get the country through the current period of high inflation.
The comments come amidst controversy over news that approximately 4,000 public servants already earning over €150,000 a year, including mostly doctors, but also judges and civil servants, are in line for pay rises of up to 10pc from July 1 after the Coalition was legally advised it could not block the final restoration of austerity-era pay cuts.
The pay restoration comes at a time when the Government is under mounting pressure to address the cost-of-living crisis in the coming weeks.
Mr Varadkar, who has notably refused to categorically rule out further interventions before the Budget in October, told his party that tax receipts are “very robust” with more than 2.5 million people in employment which is now growing in every region. He said the South-West and South-East of the country are now outperforming Dublin.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly will be asked to appear before the Fine Gael parliamentary party in the coming weeks to account for the overcrowding crisis at University Hospital Limerick's emergency department.
A motion calling on Mr Donnelly to produce an action plan "to address the short, medium and long term issues" at the hospital was unanimously passed with Clare TD Joe Carey, who proposed the motion, calling for the Fianna Fáil minister to appear before his party’s TDs and senators in the coming weeks.
The State’s health watchdog, the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa), last week issued a damning report into chronic overcrowding and significant staff and bed shortages which raised concerns about patient safety.
Mr Donnelly said on Wednesday evening that the HSE has mandated its Performance Management Improvement Unit (PMIU) to "provide intensive support to both hospital and community teams to ensure that the issues identified in the recent assessment, and the HIQA report, are addressed as a matter of urgency".
The Hiqa report found that one patient was left waiting for 116 hours, another for 85 hours and a third patient for 71 hours. The number of patients in the resuscitation area was twice that of its capacity.
Mr Carey said the situation facing people in Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary was “extremely frustrating” and “totally unacceptable” given the levels of investment in the hospital over the last decade.
He said there was a need for an elective-only hospital in the midwest, an increase in inpatient bed capacity at other hospitals in the region and 24/7 access to diagnostics at UHL.