Dáil debates

Wednesday, 27 April 2005

Ceisteanna — Questions.

Departmental Staff.

11:00 am

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Question 1: To ask the Taoiseach the number of staff vacancies in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8768/05]

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Question 2: To ask the Taoiseach the policies of his Department in respect of the employment of persons with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8769/05]

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Question 3: To ask the Taoiseach the number of staff vacancies in his Department; the number of persons with disabilities employed in his Department; the percentage of the overall staff which this represents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11818/05]

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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Question 4: To ask the Taoiseach the number of staff vacancies in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11880/05]

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Question 5: To ask the Taoiseach the percentage of persons with disabilities employed in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11936/05]

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive, together.

There are no vacancies in my Department at present. My Department and the bodies under its aegis are committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all staff. Staff are recruited through the Public Appointments Commission on the grounds that they meet the requirements of the positions they are to fill. The issue of disability does not affect recruitment. No exception is made by my Department in this regard. In line with other Departments, we follow the guidelines set out in the Code of Practice for the Employment of People with Disabilities in the Civil Service.

Promotion, training and all other benefits and opportunities are decided on the grounds of ability, qualifications and other relevant objective criteria. The percentage of staff with a disability at my Department stands at 3.64%, which is above the suggested target.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I am glad to hear the percentage of staff with a disability in the Department of the Taoiseach is 3.64% and that this is over the target set in the programme for Government. Does that target also apply to temporary staff in his Department? In other words, if people are being recruited on a temporary basis, does the same level of targeting for persons with a disability apply to temporary employees?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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As I understand it, the target is for the total number of staff. The Department is judged on the quarterly report on its total staff. My Department has always sought to treat the matter realistically. I do not consider the Department's achievement to be great, as the number is small. I would like to see a higher figure. We are always seeking new ways to appoint people with disabilities, many of whom could take the opportunity if we could provide it. They have a very valuable contribution to make. I would like to see the figure for my Department rise to 4% or 5%.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Do the Department's employees with a disability, whatever it may be, move within the Department, or are they confined to the one position or job that they have been doing? Many public servants move between sections within departments. Is that done in the Department of the Taoiseach?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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People with disabilities are treated on the same basis for promotion and recruitment. They are treated exactly the same. The only exception might be for telephonists, who have particular expertise in that area and who tend to stay in that job. In other grades, they can definitely move.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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How many additional people should be added to this in the Taoiseach's personal constituency office?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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Is the Deputy asking how many more people should there be?

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Yes.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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There is nobody in my constituency office who comes within the category of disabled. I would not have any difficulty, however, if suitable people in the Civil Service system were found. Everybody in my constituency section bar one is a civil servant. The people in my Department who have a disability are as good as and are equal to anybody else. There might obviously be some limitations to their work, but they make up for it well in other ways.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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We are talking at cross-purposes, although I accept what the Taoiseach has said about the disability quota. I was querying the number of staff in light of the Taoiseach's recent answer to a parliamentary question on that. I was asking how many additional people there would be, who were not included under that answer, working in the Taoiseach's constituency office.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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All the people working in the constituency office are included in that. They are part of the staff.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Sargent.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I do not have a copy of last week's——

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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The Taoiseach does not know how many people are working in his constituency office.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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A fair number.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy would not believe it if I told him that I have not been in the constituency office in my Department.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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The Taoiseach is right. I would not believe that.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I have not been there. I do not know. I think it is six. Whatever I said last week. That office is in another part of the building and I do not think I have been in it.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Five minutes later, and I have got an answer.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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The Taoiseach has so many staff, he cannot count them.

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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He has more than several Deputies put together.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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I cannot believe the Taoiseach does not know how many people are in his constituency office.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy should proceed with his question.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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My question can hopefully be answered straightforwardly. I am wondering about the 4% reduction in the Taoiseach's staff levels. Has he succeeded in making that reduction in 2005, or is any of the reduction coming off the spin doctoring wing of his Department? Am I right in saying the cost of special advisors, programme managers and press officers to the Department of the Taoiseach is €850,000? It was reported that the Taoiseach was proportionally reducing his staff. In what areas has he succeeded in this regard?

An bhfuil daoine ina Roinn atá ar a gcumas gnó a dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge agus ceisteanna a fhreagairt trí Ghaeilge? Má tá ceisteanna le cur anseo sa Dáil chuig an Taoiseach trí Ghaeilge, an bhfuil sin indéanta ó thaobh foireann a Roinne?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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My Department will reach the reduction target of 4%. With regard to any new vacancy, the Department examines how it might reschedule staff and achieve greater efficiency. We are on course to meet the target and will do so. This will not be achieved by decreasing the workload but by efficiency, and technology helps in this regard by reducing the volume of paper. We must ensure we meet the target but we must not cut any of our services or current workload.

There are people throughout my Department who are proficient in the Irish language when dealing with the public and answering e-mails, correspondence and telephone calls.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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The disability legislation consultation group concluded that a more robust mechanism is required for the enforcement of the 3% quota with regard to the employment of people with disabilities. Does the Taoiseach agree that a gradual increase in this quota is needed? I take some hope from his earlier reply when he said he would like to see this increase to 4% and 5%. Does the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform monitor and enforce the quota across all Departments?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The question specifically refers to the Department of the Taoiseach.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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My question also refers to the Department of the Taoiseach. Does the Department of Justice, Equality and Law reform monitor and enforce the quota with regard to the Department of the Taoiseach and all others? Is there a special unit for that purpose?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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In response to an earlier question by Deputy Rabbitte, seven people work in my constituency office.

The enforcement of the quota with regard to the employment of people with disabilities is not easy to achieve and is co-ordinated by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform which monitors all Departments in this regard. However, it is a difficult task. I would have liked the figure to have increased many years ago, but it is hard to get people to make the effort at times. It has improved in my Department and others, and there are driving efforts to continue this improvement.

People should sometimes take a chance. A person with a disability will lose out if the same rigorous criteria are followed every time. There are many people in the system and it will not be the end of the world if it does not work out 100%. How can it? It is not easy having a disability. The Department of Labour had responsibility for the issue and was traditionally very good in this regard. Individuals made up for their disability in other ways and were always prepared to work longer hours and overtime at weekends. People should press the matter.

The issue of the quota must be pressed, monitored and driven. It is difficult to achieve but there are good people out there and more of them are applying to the Department.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Who is monitoring the issue?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Has it a special unit?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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It pursues each Department in respect of the issue. The Minister of State contacts each Department and reminds it of its responsibility. The equality section is the special unit in this regard.