Dáil debates

Thursday, 10 November 2005

4:00 pm

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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Question 8: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of new staff members who came from the existing pool of civil servants and those who are contract staff among the intake of staff into his Department over each of the past five years; and if he will further indicate the number of consultancies undertaken by his Department in the same period. [33485/05]

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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I am circulating with my reply a table indicating the number of staff recruited by the Department of Foreign Affairs over the past five years. It should be noted that a number of staff will also have left the Department during this period on transfer to other Departments or offices. Others will have retired or resigned, or availed of the option to take career breaks or special leave. I am also providing a table indicating the number of consultants engaged by the Department during each of the past five years.

Photo of Michael D HigginsMichael D Higgins (Galway West, Labour)
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I would like to the think that the Minister's Department was supported by a greater intake than is revealed in the table. It is interesting that in 2004 there were 115 consultancies and the total intake through departmental recruitment that year was 65. Given that there was an intake in 2002 of 201 and the fact that we were preparing for the increased role of the Department of Foreign Affairs, which I support, at the level of the European Union and the United Nations in international organisations, in particular, the projected increase in the other table which relates to the development division between now and 2012, it appears incredible that, allowing for retirements, leave and so on, the Department is recruiting such a small number. If we are to meet our commitments on overseas development aid by 2012, including the announced expansion in representation abroad, which I support, I do not understand how this can be achieved with this level of intake. Does the Minister propose to go to the Minister for Finance and seek departure from any such embargoes to achieve the policy objectives of his Department?

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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The Department has no problem fulfilling its functions with the existing cohort of staff personnel. In regard to engaging 500 consultancies over the past five years, 87% of them are in the area of overseas development aid. Most of them are small time related consultancies because we do not have this expertise within the Department. They ensure value for taxpayers' money in regard to the development programmes, mainly across sub-Saharan Africa. I assure the Deputy that the larger intake of consultancies is due to the expansion of the ODA programme. As there will be a substantial increase in funding for the ODA programme in the Estimates next week, I have no doubt the number of consultancies will expand even further, and this will happen again in 2007.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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Is there an age limit on people being recruited from outside and, if not, how many people over the age of 45 have been taken into the Department from outside?

Photo of Michael D HigginsMichael D Higgins (Galway West, Labour)
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Is the Minister in a position to say whether the advisory committee's commissioned reports on the staffing needs of the Department, such as the Cassidy report and others, will be implemented?

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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I do not know if there is an age limit. I do not have the figures, but if there is, I can get the figures for the Deputy. I would not like to think there is an age limit other than the normal limit that exists in the public service.