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Report Cards & Retirements!

Last night Brendan Howlin published financial report cards on all the various departments. At the same time, on the 29th of this month, we will see an out-flux of qualified and experienced staff leaving critical stations within the public service, due to an early retirement scheme. Before I continue writing this piece, I would like to state that both my parents are ex public servants, a teacher and a nurse, so I cannot be accused of being unfair in my assessment of the public service, given the fact that I was fed and raised by two former members of the frontline.

I have been very critical of the public service in the past. I feel that the lack of accountability is something that only serves to diminish the quality of an individual service and in many instances de moralise the many good and capable public servants. Nevertheless, we are regularly treated to visions and audio clips of the likes of David Begg and Jack O Connor, jumping around and shouting into microphones on top of stages, feeding their blatant self fulfilling propaganda to the ears of the mostly innocent public servants. Change is something which unions have cascaded as being a bad thing. Change is something they say will not be of benefit to the wider employee base of the public service. The fact is though, times have changed, the world is a different place. Granted SIPTU still have the capital required to justify exploring the option of building "The SIPTU Towers", but for those of us living in the real world things are that bit tighter. Aside from this lack of acceptance for the need for change, I also believe a system that graduates pay for employees based on "time spent" is a totally flawed system. This system, once again, only discourages hard work and dedication, and probably stops just short of rewarding laziness and in-ambition. But once again, queue the sound of the predictable ranting and raving from the likes of Begg and O Connor.

The above are just two examples of major flaws, within a long litany of major faults that remain within the public service and its ability to serve the public efficiently and effectively. So what has got us to the point whereby in just a few days time we will watch on as 1000's of public servants leave in early retirement because of the stupidity of two consecutive governments. In my humble opinion, it absolutely beggars belief how some supposedly highly competent people in high ranking public service and government departmental roles think this is going to work. Is it any wonder, that very little, if any at all, of these high ranking officials, worked a day in a real company, with real tangible resources, that unless utilised effectively, could cost them their job or more seriously the company its life?

It is no wonder then, why I and many people, reluctantly sniggered at the announcement of the "report cards" issued yesterday, by Brendan Howlin. We all know many of those sitting at cabinet are ex teachers, but when are they actually going to start treating the country as a country, not a classroom, and the citizens as real people, and not mere pupils, to be spoken down to and ordered what to do?

I just believe they don't get it. When are the public servants, the government and most importantly the trade unions going to get, that the whole idea of a "public service" is to serve the public first and foremost. Brendan Howlin and co seem to be more interested in cascading around report cards and the notion of being accountable, than actually addressing the major flaws within public sector bodies. I don't blame the public servants who have opted for early retirement in order to hold on to more of their pension, God knows I would do it myself. What I do abhor though, is politicians standing over an exodus of good experienced staff from frontline services, whilst 2000 hr staff remain in the HSE alone. This is more of the mediocre judgements made by career politicians and civil servants, who I must say, at this stage more than ever, seem totally devoid of any sense of being in touch with reality. The notion of letting staff decide themselves, who will stay and who will go is plain ridiculous. Does anyone actually believe for one second, that a member of the public service who knows how little they offer individually in their role, is going to put their hand up for early retirement or voluntary redundancy? They will know well, that they wouldn't be able to get a job on planet earth. On the flip side, good competent public servants will have no problem gaining employment in the private sector. So what we, sorry THEY, have managed to do is not alone shrink a public service already on its knees, but in fact, ship off mostly good public servants. 

So whilst numbers shrink on the public payroll and Howlin brandishes his report cards and Unions and top civil servants talk about the progression made with Croke Park, absolutely nothing has changed. It saddens me to see this, especially as a member of the Fine Gael party, who did join and vote for them with the intention of at least assisting to get the people in place, to bring about that change required across so many levels and promised by so many people. Yet here I sit, dismayed like many people, at yet another government and Dail cycle that offers so little other than the usual heckling, cliche speeches and sub par td's. I sit here again watching news reels, as union bosses on six figure salaries, brandish gold Rolexs, trying to defend quangos and top heavy civil service bodies, whilst emergency wards, Garda Stations and classrooms are either closed down or over-run. I sit here, just days away, from standing by powerless, as 1000's of capable public servants will be forced out of posts, leaving us, the Public, the people that Minster Howlin, The Unions and the Public Service have forgotten about in all of this, suffer the consequences of their inability or inadequacy to do their jobs! Yes, I sit here, powerless, meaningless, regretting yet another vote made less than a year ago. Yes, in this little country of ours, everything changes, but as the line goes, everything remains the same... 

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