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Dublin: 11°C Thursday 26 May 2022

Minister encourages retired public servants ‘twiddling their thumbs’ to volunteer abroad

Minister of State Joe Costello told TheJournal.ie that his department plans to launch a new civilian volunteer corps later this year.

Minister of State Joe Costello.
Minister of State Joe Costello.
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

THE DEPARTMENT OF Foreign Affairs is to launch a new civilian volunteer corps later this year which will encourage recently retired public servants to travel and work in countries that are in desperate need of international aid.

Minister of State Joe Costello told TheJournal.ie that the “main thrust” of the new overseas volunteering policy will involve the large cohort of about 30,000 people who have retired recently through redundancy schemes in the public sector.

“We want to harness as many of them as are willing to volunteer with their incredible range of skills across all government departments and local authorities,” he said.

Particularly in fragile countries – those exiting war, or conflict, or catastrophe – they are most in need of robust administration and many of the people who retired are still quite young.

This is a unique opportunity, it’s never happened before, probably because we never had this window of opportunity for the last ten years and we have this enormous range of top professional administrative skills to put to good use.

“Someone with those quality of skills – they’re gold dust to a developing country that may not have the institutional capacity to deal with problems to do with government and could move into corrupt practices,” he added.

When asked why the government here wasn’t harnessing the skills of these workers, Costello said he would “love to see all of those people working in Ireland”.

“No one seems to be targeting them now – no one but me seems to have thought of it,” Costello said.

These are people who had taken early retirement because there was a decent offer there at the time, when Minister Howlin was bringing in redundancies under the Troika measures. We are forced to reduce the public sector from 320,000 to 280,000 and while some of them may have gone back to doing some kind of work, there is a very large number of them who are twiddling their thumbs and would love the opportunity to avail of structured volunteering opportunities.

The department plans to hold a volunteer fair in early September which Costello said will be “advertised as widely as possible” with flexible schemes of between six months and three years. There would be no payment for volunteers but Costello said that supports will be put in place to enable people to do the work “without suffering in any particular way”.

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