Dáil debates

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Ceisteanna - Questions

Ministerial Staff

3:00 pm

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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Question 7: To ask the Taoiseach if he has appointed or will be appointing advisors and programme managers and other staff to his Department in addition to the regular Departmental staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5740/11]

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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Question 8: To ask the Taoiseach if he will report on the number and work of special advisors in his Department; and the way this compares with his predecessor [5802/11]

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Question 9: To ask the Taoiseach the number of advisors he has appointed or will appoint to work in his Department [5910/11]

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Question 10: To ask the Taoiseach the names of the advisors and programme managers he has appointed to date and their specific role within his Department [5911/11]

Deputies:

I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 to 10, inclusive, together.

Deputies:

I am currently in the process of appointing Mr. Mark Kennelly, Mr. Andrew McDowell, Ms Angela Flanagan and Mr. Paul O'Brien as advisers in my Department. The primary function of special advisers will be to secure the achievement of Government objectives and to ensure effective co-ordination in the implementation of the programme for government.

Deputies:

The role and duties of special advisers are described in section 11 of the Public Service Management Act 1997. In summary, these are (i) providing advice; (ii) monitoring, facilitating and securing the achievement of Government objectives that relate to the Department, as requested; and (iii) performing such other functions as may be directed.

Deputies:

The specific roles for each of the special advisers that I intend to appoint are being finalised at present. My special advisers will give me advice and keep me informed on a wide range of policy issues and perform such other functions as may be directed by me from time to time. I will also appoint a number of personal assistants and personal secretaries in the coming weeks as will the Ministers of State assigned to my Department.

Deputies:

The Government has not yet finalised all of the appointments it will make. However, I expect that the overall number of appointments will be fewer than previous Administrations and the remuneration involved will be considerably less.

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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This Chamber seems to be awash with money today. When Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen were taoisigh the Taoiseach, Deputy Kenny, quite rightly gave off about special advisers. It is one of the matters that has helped to bring politics into disrepute. Last year the Fianna Fáil Taoiseach set out the salaries of his special advisers. There were seven of them with salaries ranging from €93,000 to €195,000 per annum. Bhí an Taoiseach ag tabhairt amach faoi sin ag an uair sin, agus tá sé ag déanamh an rud chéanna anois. The Taoiseach was giving out about that then, quite rightly, and now he is doing exactly the same thing. This is at a time when social welfare-----

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy should ask a question please.

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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-----and the minimum wage rates are being cut and the universal social charge is being imposed. Would the Taoiseach not stop this gravy train for advisers? Would he not rely upon the very well paid senior civil servants in his Department and on his party staff to ensure that the programme for Government is implemented? Will the Taoiseach set out the cost of those special advisers to the taxpayer who is carrying many burdens at this time?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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What I did say is that the numbers and the costs would be considerably less than in previous Administrations. At its first meeting in Áras an Uachtaráin the Government made decisions in that regard. I will publish all of the details when the appointments are finalised. Let me repeat again; both the numbers and the costs will be considerably reduced.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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If I heard correctly, the Taoiseach said he was appointing four advisers.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Yes, four.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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Could the Taoiseach tell me what the annual salary of those advisers will be? I asked in my question how the number of advisers he intends to appoint compares with his predecessor.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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As I indicated, I will set out the salary scales, terms of reference and work of each of the advisers. That is not finalised yet but I will be happy to put it on record as soon as the details are finalised. Let me repeat; numbers and costs will be reduced in this case, as they have been in all others, in so far as the Government is concerned about such appointments.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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The Taoiseach wants to vacate 25,000 jobs in the public service - scandalously so, in view of the mass unemployment and the small weight of the public sector compared to elsewhere in Europe at present. Why would he not find advisers from among existing public servants for his Department?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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There is no question but that the Government has set out its programme for Government in respect of reducing the overall cost and size of the public service by means of voluntary redundancy, as the Deputy is aware. The persons involved in the case in question were all working in a party capacity. Fewer are being brought over to Government Buildings than was the case under all other Governments heretofore.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Special advisers have a very constructive role to play in modern Governments and modern policy formulation. They date back to 1992 when the then Fianna Fáil-Labour Government initiated the concept of programme managers. The easiest political game to play is to attack the concept of advisers.

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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It is the salaries that are being attacked.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Adams would have benefited from some programme advisers in a different context in terms of working out political issues associated with the peace process and so on. In the peace process, advisers played a noble and significant part.

Regarding political reform and modern systems of government, does the Taoiseach agree that political parties, be they in or out of government, need independent capacity to interrogate policies and issues? While we can talk about value for money and the cost - I accept all that - we should not argue about the fundamental principle of a political party having depth in terms of policy and capacity. When a political party comes into power, there should be creative tension between its policy resource and personnel and what has been described as the permanent government. It works very constructively on many occasions, and that should be acknowledged also. It can be very useful in co-ordination and in developing joined-up government.

It is disappointing that the specific roles for the programme managers have not been identified. We need to value democracy and the input of political parties. That is a perspective I would bring to the discussion on this specific question.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Good, competent people working in respect of the implementation of a programme for Government are always valuable. They interact with each other through the various Departments and with the public service. Ultimately the function of the Government is to determine solutions and make decisions, as the Deputy well knows. In that respect, effectiveness of government is critical to move the country on. I agree with Deputy Martin that it is important that there be objectivity and a different analysis of what might emerge from people being too concentrated inside government in many ways.

The programme manager concept worked very effectively under a number of coalition Governments in that issues that were to be decided by Government were agreed and problems that arose were dealt with before they got to Cabinet, thus making it easier for members to tease out issues and make decisions. This is important. Time is not to be wasted. Good, competent people working effectively in the interest of implementing a programme for Government are working in the country's interest.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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In agreeing with the Taoiseach, I point out to him that the Opposition parties are not yet in a position to appoint special advisers or a team because of the absence of any commission or the failure to establish one. It is a pressing issue in terms of how the Oireachtas works. We should address this fairly quickly.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I believe the Deputy will get more resources than might be expected from the Opposition perspective. There are guidelines and rules about this depending on the percentage of the vote and the number of seats each party gets.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Taoiseach is great.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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He will get some assistance in that regard. I like to believe all the members of the parties-----

Photo of Timmy DooleyTimmy Dooley (Clare, Fianna Fail)
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Do not tell Angela Merkel.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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-----will get some assistance in respect of the work they have to do. I know this because I was in opposition for long enough.