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Department defends reappointment of top servant who retired 18 months ago

An assistant secretary-general at the Department of Agriculture retired in 2010, but will stay on until October at least.

Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE has explained why it has retained the services of a senior civil servant who retired in 2010, and who is set to continue working at the Department at least until this October.

Minister Simon Coveney confirmed last week that an assistant secretary-general, Martin Heraghty, was still working in the Department despite having retired in October 2010, under the terms of the incentivised Scheme for Early Retirement.

Despite having retired 19 months ago, Heraghty  remains hired on a part-time contract until at least this October, which Coveney said had cost €120,860 to date.

This lunchtime the Department explained to TheJournal.ie that Heraghty had been reappointed with the approval of the former minister for finance Brian Lenihan, as his expertise was needed for specific projects.

“Since the [recruitment] moratorium was introduced, the Department lost six Assistant Secretaries with only two of these having been replaced and one Director (IT) appointed,” the Department said in a statement.

As a result of the shortfall at senior management level in the Department, sanction of the Minister for Finance was obtained to re-engage an Assistant Secretary who, amongst other matters, has responsibility for policy on meat and milk production and processing – two of the largest sectors in Irish agriculture, for a defined contract period.

The Department said given the role that the meat and dairy sector was likely to play in an economic recovery, and how reform of the Common Agricultural Policy would be ongoing in the coming months – including during Ireland’s EU presidency in the first half of next year – it needed to ensure that it was “well positioned at senior management level”.

“Accordingly, the Department considered it essential that the Assistant Secretary in question be re-engaged.”

The management structure outlined on the Department’s website lists Heraghty as being responsible for meat and milk policy, dairy controls and food industry development.

He is also listed as being a member of the board of Teagasc, the agriculture and food development authority, up until at least January 2011, though the most recent annual reports available – for 2009 and 2010 – confirm he was not paid for this role in either of those years.

The Department added that it could not say for now whether Heraghty’s arrangement would be continued beyond October and into the first half of next year when Ireland holds the presidency of the European Council.

Pay rules applied to the public and civil services mean that retired former staff members who are rehired later have their pay levels capped so that their total income, including both their new pay and their existing pension, cannot be higher than their original salary.

Read: 45 years: average age of civil servants as staffing levels approach crisis point

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Gavan Reilly

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