The week that was

The IMF

The week began with more fevered speculation and comment about what the IMF did (or didn’t) say about public sector pay. The report that caused all the fuss was about Ireland’s progress under the ‘troika’ package. The report said that Ireland’s approach to public service pay has “helped keep industrial peace, protect frontline services, raise public sector productivity, and deliver agreed savings in a durable way.”

So, despite some Irish media reports, the IMF did not call for further public service pay cuts or seek a review of the Croke Park agreement on equity grounds. Rather, it gives a broad endorsement of Irish Government policy, including the Croke Park deal.

It concludes that “Ireland has met all programme targets,” and the IMF is so relaxed about Croke Park that the deal was not even mentioned in its press release, which did find space to call for more financial sector reform, a new personal insolvency framework, stronger competition enforcement and assistance for job seekers.

Although the report says IMF staff see advantages in “further wage reductions, especially in terms of immediate savings,” it did not call for a change of Irish Government policy on public service pay, still less a review of the Croke Park agreement.

On public service pay, the IMF agrees that recent increases in the cost of public service pensions mostly reflect demographic trends – a point repeatedly made by IMPACT and the Croke Park implementation body. This didn’t prevent media commentary implying that increased pension costs – and particularly once-off lump sum payments this year – had eaten into the €1.5 billion of savings achieved in the first two years of the Croke Park agreement.

Chaos in the skies!!

Well no, not chaos exactly, but definitely a distraction. On Tuesday, news of Ryanair’s failed application for an injunction against IALPA was somewhat overshadowed by yet another bid by the airline to buy Aer Lingus. Previous bids have provoked much excitement and commentary and this time it was no different, save perhaps for the fact that the airline is conspicuously short of allies this time around. 

IMPACT’s Matt Staunton spoke on RTE’s Morning Ireland on Wednesday, and wrote to transport Minister Leo Varadkar outlining IMPACT’s concerns. The bid seems to have little or no support. It would appear that almost everyone, including the UK Office of Fair Trading, has concerns about a takeover of Aer Lingus.

Report of the Independent Child Death Review Group 

The week concludes with the sad and shocking findings about 196 children who died while in state care in the Report of the Independent Child Death Review Group 2000-2010.

In Dáil exchanges this week, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore noted that period covered by the report was a time “when there was so much partying going on, when there was much clapping on the back about how wonderful the country was, how great we were doing and how much more money we had.” It was a sobering reflection, and it obliges all of Irish society to learn from the mistakes and work together to help prevent such fatalities in the future.