Wednesday 13 December 2017

First hint that Croke Park pact may come back on the table

PUBLIC servants are bracing themselves for severe cutbacks as Finance Minister Brian Lenihan lines up billions of euro worth of cuts in a four-year Budget plan.

The Government will next month reveal the true cost of the banking failures for Irish citizens and outline a number of hairshirt measures.

Hospital workers, carers, special-needs assistants and other public servants are likely to be on the chopping block for the promised €3bn in savings.

But it's not clear how far the Government will push for additional cuts in the four-year Budget outlook.


Although Mr Lenihan said the Budget would include a strategy for growth and jobs, his brother, minister Conor Lenihan, gave the first signal that the numbers in the public service could be culled.

Writing in the Herald today, the Minister for Science, Technology, Innovation and Natural Resources says that although the Croke Park Agreement had prevented widespread industrial unrest over the past two years, it was not popular with the public.

"In the public eye, the politicians have still not got down to brass tacks on reforming public services," he writes.

"If progress is not made soon it will probably signal the end of the Croke Park agreement and the partnership process as we know it. Huge and difficult decisions still remain to be taken about downsizing the state."

Amidst the shocking revelations about the final €34bn cost of Anglo to the state, Taoiseach Brian Cowen indicated that the public service would face severe cuts in order to bring our spending back in line.

"We have to ensure that our public service is affordable and fit-for-purpose so that it can continue its contribution to a return to economic growth and prosperity," he said.

"The time has now come for the public service as a whole to deliver the required level of transformation with a strong emphasis on improved performance and delivery to the citizen.

"Every public servant has his or her own role to play in this transformation, and I believe that, together, management and staff have the capacity to make this happen for the benefit of all concerned."

In announcing the move to a warts-and-all style plan in November, Brian Lenihan argued that it would provide a solid commitment to international markets that Ireland is focused on balancing its books. "It is important that we have a credible path to show how we propose to meet this commitment," he said.

The final bill for the bank bailout was yesterday listed at €50bn, which will cost every man, woman and child in the State €10,000.

Although the four-year Budget plan was met with resistance from opposition parties, international response has been positive.


Fine Gael finance spokesman Michael Noonan said his party would not necessarily be bound to the plan while Labour finance spokeswoman Joan Burton called for confidential briefings before next month.

But Olli Rehn, EU commissioner on economic and monetary affairs, said that the State could meet the EU 3pc target by 2014 "on the condition that Ireland can present a convincing multi-annual fiscal policy covering 2011 to 2014."

Irish bond markets rallied after successive days of falls.

The Financial Times said that the government has taken a "small step" towards solving the banking crisis.

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