What it said in the papers – Croke Park implementation body’s second review

In this week’s blog, we take a quick look at each of the main newspaper’s take on the publication on Wednesday of the latest Croke Park review. It revealed that savings and reforms under Croke Park had yielded almost €1.5bn in recurring and sustainable savings in the public sector.

In 2011, the first implementation body review was almost completely ignored, save one or two mentions buried deep in the papers. This year was different, but the response is still a mixture of scepticism, some cynicism, and some surprises.

Irish Examiner

What they reported: ‘More cuts on cards despite Croke Park savings’

What they said: No Examiner comment on the deal this week.

What we say: The Examiner, in 2011, was the first paper to ever attempt to look at where the Croke Park reforms were happening, which was a refreshing development after months of fairly widespread media hostility. Every so often the editorial gives public sector workers and their unions a swift kicking and a telling off, but not today.

The Irish Times

What they reported: ‘Howlin says Croke Park agreement still being resisted’

What they said: ‘Public service agreement could croak beneath the troika spotlight’

“A European Commission draft update on Ireland, published in yesterday’s Irish Times, showed concern that the burden of reform here was not being shared equally. The commission raised the question of whether it would be better to cut public service pay instead of numbers to protect services. It also said Irish public service pay rates were relatively high by European standards…So far the troika, of the commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, has been relatively hands-off in the way it has supervised the budgetary adjustment in Ireland. As long as the overall targets are met it has not been too intrusive. The leaked document, which came through the usual route of the Bundestag finance committee, indicates that the commission may be getting restive about how the burden is falling. That could have implications for the Croke Park Agreement.”

What we say: No surprises really. The Irish Times has been pretty much consistent in its editorial commentary that ‘Croke Park is not enough’, particularly since the arrival of the Troika in late 2010. While the ‘paper of record’ undoubtedly sticks to the facts, headlines like yesterday’s are always far more likely to appear than, for instance, ‘Croke Park saves €1.5bn’. However, IMPACT general secretary Shay Cody was given the opportunity to outline his thoughts in this article in yesterday’s edition.

Irish Independent

What they reported: ‘Public sector union seeks pay rises for its members’

What they said: “Yesterday’s review from the implementation body shows that the Croke Park agreement isn’t a one way street; that, contrary to what the agreement’s many critics might claim, Croke Park is making a significant contribution.”

What we say: Blimey, we did not see that one coming! So accustomed are we to hostility from the Independent group (and let’s face it, that goes back all the way to the paper’s founder William Martin Murphy) it came as a genuine surprise for the efforts of public sector workers and unions to attract any acknowledgement at all. When we recovered from the shock, we did note that the editorial goes on to say that there is ‘much more to do’. Fair enough, we knew that already.

Meanwhile…in the tabloids

Daily Mirror: ‘Croke Park deal has saved us €1bn’

Irish Daily Star: ‘Croke Park wiped €1bn off public service pay bill’

Under the headline ‘Quality Service’ The Star editorial said – “Congratulations to the country’s public and civil servants who’ve saved us €1.5bn thorough implementation of Croke Park over the past two years…the saving of €1.5bn over two years is a magnificent achievement. But let’s acknowledge that it’s come at an extremely high price for innocent workers and their families – while the fat cats continue to lick the cream.” Like the Independent editorial, this comes as something of a surprise. While industrial relations rarely feature in any significant way in the paper, Star columnist Eddie Hobbs has publicly described the Croke Park agreement as a ‘cancer’.

Irish Daily Mail & The Irish Sun: In the parallel universe of what are, essentially, UK papers with some Irish content, Croke Park and industrial relations stories rarely appear. The Mail occasionally indulges in a bit of union / lefty / beard bashing but, like the definition of planet Earth in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, we file these attacks under ‘mostly harmless’.