Tuesday, 28 February 2006
Bertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
There is ongoing training for staff members who come into the Department or who move from one Department to another. There are now around 10,500 people on the list. What happens before the next general election is relevant to the decentralisation process. The public service is non-political. I was Minister for Finance in the early 1990s when the Government last implemented a decentralisation programme. It was an ambitious programme involving thousands of people. People claimed that it would never happen and that it would not work, but it worked perfectly, even though it took longer than we thought. Industrial relations must be taken into account and these issues must be negotiated. Everyone knows these offices now work successfully and that the services provided are top class. The same will happen with this programme. It takes time to work and it cannot be done other than by negotiation and preparation. Locating sites and designs will take time. We have the support of the public servants and, in particular, the civil servants on this issue.