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Just the two cheers for Howlin pay cut plans

TWO cheers for Public Expenditure & Reform Minister Brendan Howlin on his decision to implement cuts in top earnings in the public sector. The third cheer is withheld because of his allowing for exceptions. There is no need for exceptions.

Mr Howlin says exceptions will be limited to "roles of substantial importance" in the public service or where the person involved brings "exceptional or scarce expertise and/or qualifications." That could mean anything or nothing.

Apart from that, Mr Howlin has gone about the cuts in a sensible way. It essentially affects those who replace the present incumbents and a 15pc voluntary cut seems a fair way of dealing with those currently on higher salaries.

The minister is absolutely right that one cannot expect the bulk of workers -- not to mention those dependent on welfare -- to make sacrifices unless there is example from the top. He might also have mentioned that the same applies in the EU states which are lending us money and cannot believe the outrageous remuneration in Ireland.

It is not too fanciful to think that the return to something approaching reality in earnings could be a key plank in the government's efforts to get a cut in interest rates and protect the corporation tax rate.