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Taoiseach doesn't agree with MacSharry's remarks about public servants using pandemic to watch box sets

MacSharry acknowledged his comments will not be popular, but he stood over his words yesterday.

Sligo-Leitrim TD Marc MacSharry says his word might not be popular, but they had to be said.
Sligo-Leitrim TD Marc MacSharry says his word might not be popular, but they had to be said.
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said he does not agree with the comments made by Sligo-Leitrim TD Marc MacSharry in which he accused some public servants of laziness and using the Covid-19 crisis as an excuse to “lie on the couch and watch box sets”.

Yesterday, the Fianna Fáil TD acknowledged his comments will not be popular, but he stood over his words yesterday.

The controversy began with a debate this week on the Social Protection Bill where MacSharry spoke about some civil servants who he said: “frankly, Covid-19 has been great cover for doing nothing”.

He described his dealings with one State agency which will not have people back in that office until the end of August. 

“Most people have been allowed to return to work, particularly in the private sector,” he said, stating that if people are working from home, they should be able to continue their work online and on the phone.

“Many elements of our State agencies, Departments and local authorities, however, are using this situation as cover to lie on the couch and watch box sets, returning an odd call here and there and doing the maximum of the minimum to tick over during this period. Productivity has fallen and that is unacceptable,” he said.

“I don’t agree at all with Marc’s position on this,” the Taoiseach said today.

He said public service has come to the fore like never before during the pandemic.

He commended civil servants working in the health service, the gardaí and across the board for working “flat out” throughout the crisis.

Martin said he belieed strongly in the concept of a strong public service.

His comments come as the union Siptu have become the latest body to call for MacSharry to withdraw his remarks.

The union said members have expressed “anger, disappointment and hurt” at MacSharry’s comments, which they have described as “outrageous”.

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Tweet by @SIPTU Source: SIPTU/Twitter

Yesterday, the Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants called on MacSharry to withdraw “the ill-informed and ill-considered” comments, as did his own party colleague senator Malcolm Byrne.

MacSharry defended his comments on RTÉ’s Today Show with Sarah McInerney yesterday, stating that the remarks were “evocative” and a “figure of speech” used to illustrate the point he was making.

“I’m afraid it gives me no pleasure to do it, but I must stand over the comments,” he said.

During his 13 minute speech, he said he commended the civil service workers who have been hard at work throughout the pandemic crisis, adding that he was praising the staff in social welfare for the extraordinary work that they’ve been doing.

he said a number of people have contacted him over the last number of months concerned about the matter.

“And inevitably such comments would bring the anger of many of the hard-working people who are in spare bedrooms or kitchen tables over the last period of time but it doesn’t take from my view, in terms of this point needing to be made. And I think that the public at large, cannot be expected to accept mediocrity dressed up as efficiency on a consistent basis.

“Of course, such comments aren’t popular, but it needs to be said. And that’s something that nationally we need to address,” he said, though he acknowledged that some people are annoyed with him about his remarks.

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