In this week’s blog we welcome IMPACT’s new communications executive, Helena Clarke, who writes about an emerging trend this month. A number of politicians have sought to score a few points by launching attacks, taking broadsides and issuing veiled threats to workers in public services. Has the time come, once again, for public servants to be thrust into the firing line of the politically ambitious? Think again, Helena warns, as the early drums of the next general election are sounded.
Three weeks in to the year and the spectre of the 2016 General Election has already led to some politicians seeking political gain by taking a few shots at the workers in the public sector.
The first came from TD Lucinda Creighton’s as-yet-unnamed party, under the ‘Reboot Ireland’ banner. One of the few clear messages of the fledgling party has been a definitive promise to freeze public pay. Financial advisor Eddie Hobbs, who Ms Creighton would like to see appointed as a minister in the next Government, said that a key objective of the party would be to stop any increases to public sector pay and “minimise the cost” of the public sector to the State.
The second came in a recent column in the Irish Independent , when chair of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) John McGuinness TD, claimed that there are 3,000 middle managers ‘surplus to requirements’ in the HSE, and identified the surplus as the root cause of all the problems in the Irish health service. IMPACT’s national secretary Louise O’Donnell responded to the claim and cautioned against seeking to attack health service workers to score political points.
This week Sinn Fein Councillor Oliver O’Brien took his opportunity as an audience participant on Vincent Browne’s TV3 programme to castigate public servants for “being paid salaries and producing nothing”. O’Brien, a member of the board of directors in the council, said he had walked through the building and in ‘office after office’ staff were “pushing filing cabinet doors” and essentially doing very little. O’Brien said he is against redundancies despite his unsubstantiated claims. All in all, a most confusing message.
Government has committed to opening talks on pay restoration this year. We are still in the early days of what will become a major public debate. Already there are politicians (it must be noted that all of the above represent opposition parties) willing to malign public servants in order to gain political advantage.
Those who work to provide essential services to the public have again become fair game for political point scoring. But as long as politicians are prepared to do so, it’s worth their while remembering that those same workers will also be casting their vote in next year’s general election.