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Howlin: 'Foolish' to say there won't be problems with public sector exodus

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has admitted he can’t guarantee there won’t be individual problems caused by the exodus of public sector workers at the end of the month.

Brendan Howlin
Brendan Howlin
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

BRENDAN HOWLIN HAS admitted there may be problems caused within the public sector by the spate of retirements due to take place at the end of this month.

His comments came after yesterday’s deadline for applications for the early retirement scheme passed. Over 7,700 staff applied for the scheme which allows public servants to retire on pensions based on salaries before they were cut in 2010 under the Croke Park Agreement.

Concerns have been raised that the spate of retirements on 29 February will leave shortfalls in key areas and affect frontline services in areas like health and education.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform said that less than 3 per cent of the whole public sector workforce was retiring but he said:

Can I guarantee that there won’t be individual problems at the end of the month? No, it would be very foolish of me to do that. But we’ve been spending quite some time planning. We now have the full level of retirements that are due.

His comments came as Fianna Fáil this morning called on the government to outline plans in the Dáil next week to deal with the impact of retirements in the public sector.

Speaking on the same programme, the party’s public expenditure and reform spokesperson Seán Fleming said:  ”We need to have a proper debate and discussion, primarily to assure the public that frontline services are going to be maintained.”

‘Well-paid managers’

Howlin said that he expected “of the order of 7,000, 7,500 people will leave by the end of the month.” He also said that he expected that the government would be able to recruit new staff for “critical posts”.

But he insisted that there was a central planning unit and sectoral units within departments that were dealing with the expected departures and said that “well-paid managers” needed to step up and provide plans for dealing with the losses.

Howlin also defended critics who said that the scheme was enhanced but admitted that it was “certainly an incentive. But it’s not a designed incentive”.

“Once you cut the salary rate, it had to impact on pensions at some date and whatever date was fixed there was going to be a significant exodus, more than the average on that date so we’ve no control over the who – that’s the point,” he said.

Meanwhile, responding to news that the Director of Corporate Enforcement, Paul Appleby, is to stay on for six months after initially indicating his intention to retire was welcomed by the Minister.

Appleby, who is leading an investigation into Anglo Irish Bank, announced yesterday that he intended to step down under the early retirement scheme. But a deal has been reached for him to remain in his post for the next six months.

Under the deal Appleby will be able to keep his €300,000 pension package, calculated before his salary was cut in 2010.  Howlin said he hoped the agreement for Appleby to stay on would facilitate a “seamless transition to a new director”.

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Hugh O'Connell

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