At a conferring ceremony of the Institute of Public Administration (IPA) today in Dublin Castle, the Chancellor of the National University of Ireland, Dr Maurice Manning defended public servants against media criticism much of which he described as ‘grossly unfair.’ Drawing particular attention to comments over the weekend by the head of Ryanair, Michael O’Leary, who reportedly said of senior civil servants that ‘their indolence and incompetence were legendary’, Dr Manning expressed the view that ‘for dedicated and committed public servants doing the best job they possibly can that is hard to take’.
Speaking at the ceremony, Dr Manning spoke of the challenges facing the Irish public service, ‘these are difficult times for the State with economic depression, crisis in the public finances, declining revenues, dysfunction in the banking and property sectors and increased levels of redundancies and unemployment. There have rarely been more challenging times for the Irish public service or such severe pressure on government departments and state agencies’.
Dr Manning pointed out that public servants are suffering on three fronts. Firstly, individual staff members are feeling the strain through the non-replacement of departing colleagues and the squeeze on resources. Secondly, they are feeling the impact on their personal finances of increased contributions to the exchequer. Thirdly, they are suffering blows to their self-esteem under a constant barrage of criticism of the public service in the media.
Speaking to over two hundred and sixty graduates, the Chancellor expressed the view that ‘There is considerable lack of clarity about what is envisaged in the growing calls for public service reform. The term conveys the impression – a false one - of lots of well-paid people on the books who have little to do. One thing however is clear: the public appetite for public services, whether in health, education, social welfare, environmental protection or the administration of justice, is undiminished. Equally it seems evident that the human resources available to meet those needs will diminish and that considerable resourcefulness and innovation will be called for if the quality of services is to be maintained.’
Over nine hundred students of IPA will graduate with NUI bachelors’ degrees, masters’ degrees and diplomas this week.