John McGuinness T.D.

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‘Faustian pact’ between ministers and public service



MARTIN WALL, Industry Correspondent – Irish Times 12/10/11

A Faustian pact developed over recent years between ministers and senior public service officials, the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee John McGuinness has said.

Speaking at the Institute of Public Administration conference this morning, he said in the last 10  years Fianna Fáil, politicians in general, senior public servants and leaders of public service unions “began to dance together to the sound of EU money tinkling into the national till.”

He said that ministers did not stand up to the public service “but rather allowed themselves to become the glove puppets of senior civil servants, taking best advice, reading from scripts prepared by their officials and generally acting like press officers for their departments.”

“The unwritten contract between politicians and the public service was “we will look after you if you don’t bother us. Which was a Faustian pact.”

Speaking at the same conference, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said the public service would simply not be able to function unless major reform was carried out.

The Minister said the Government was now facing stark policy choices as all the “low-hanging fruit” which could be cut had long disappeared.

Mr Howlin said that resources for the public service would be squeezed further and that staff numbers would fall. He said the demand for services had never been greater at the same time.

“That is why delaying further reform is not an option,” he said.

The Minister said the greatest challenge for the Croke Park Agreement on public service reform lay ahead.