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Taoiseach questions anonymous civil service job cuts call

TAOISEACH Brian Cowen has questioned why a group of senior officials did not publicly demand thousands of job cuts in the civil service.

The civil servants made the call for the radical reforms anonymously to the Paris-based OECD think tank, which was carrying out a major review of the public service

But Mr Cowen told the Dail that he was not aware of the identity of the civil servants -- or if they existed at all.

"I am not aware of those who felt so strongly or if they made themselves known," he said.

One of the group of senior officials has told the Irish Independent that they spoke to the OECD on condition of anonymity because to make a public submission through the official channel of the Department of the Taoiseach would be "career suicide".


The OECD has confirmed that it was contacted anonymously by up to five senior civil servants, who raised concerns about vast over-staffing in their service and called for massive redundancies using an early retirement scheme.

Labour deputy leader Joan Burton challenged Mr Cowen about why the group of senior officials had felt "inhibited" about publicly putting forward their views about over-staffing in the service.

"Is it also true the Government nobbled or interfered with the OECD report to make it less trenchant in the context of being an honest and open evaluation?" she asked.

Mr Cowen said the OECD was standing over its report and that its recommendations to improve the public service were under consideration by a task force that would report "very shortly".

The final version of the OECD report, paid for by the taxpayer at a cost of €490,000, contained no mention of the secret call to cut civil service jobs when it was published last April.

The opposition also raised remarks made by Junior Minister for Enterprise John McGuinness, who said he supported the secret calls of "civic-minded senior civil servants" for thousands of civil service job cuts.

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Last night, Mr McGuinness defended his criticism of the civil service by quoting George Bernard Shaw: "All great truths" start as blasphemies".

Tanaiste Mary Coughlan said that while these were Mr McGuinness's personal views, she believed there was a need for public sector reform.

"Arising from the OECD recommendations, we will be taking action, some of it may be unpalatable or otherwise," she said.

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