Croke Park deal a must, says Calleary

Mon, Nov 15, 2010, 00:00

THE MINISTER of State with responsibility for the Croke Park agreement Dara Calleary has told secretaries general and management of government departments they “must” implement the terms of the deal.

Mr Calleary also warned that the possibility of a change of government should not be used as an excuse to delay the implementation of the terms of the agreement on public service pay and reform.

He stressed Croke Park was a four-year deal, and would run into the lifetime of the next government. “Croke Park isn’t just a Fianna Fáil/Green agenda, it’s an agenda shared by Fine Gael and Labour. So let nobody think just because there’s going to be an election during the lifetime of this deal they can put off making decisions on transformation. They’ve got to do it, regardless of who’s in power.”

Mr Calleary said he was “disappointed” departmental implementation plans were delivered late. “It shouldn’t have happened.”

However, he rejected a claim in an editorial in this newspaper last Thursday that Croke Park reforms were finally being considered with a sense of urgency after a delay of nearly six months. “There hasn’t been a six-month delay. There was a ratification process,” he said.

He praised the Department of Health for publishing its implementation plan on its website.

“That’s what I want. I want to see Croke Park implementation plans up on departmental websites so everybody can see what’s involved here.” Without Croke Park, there was no way the Health Service Executive could proceed with the recently announced voluntary redundancy and early retirement scheme, which could see the departure of up to 5,000 staff.

“We need to change our public services. We need to do more with them for a lot less resources. I’d say to anybody who says rip up Croke Park and walk away from it, what’s your alternative? Do you want complete intransigence, complete industrial relations nightmare where we get no change?” Mr Calleary asked.

He denied the agreement was being undermined by the continuation of the traditional practice of giving civil servants time off to cash pay cheques. The Department of Finance told union leaders last month the fortnightly half-hour time-off, given to civil servants many years ago before direct electronic lodgements became common, would soon be eliminated. “Of course all that should have been dealt with before, but we are where we are. The framework of Croke Park is allowing us to take all of those things on.”

Mr Calleary described himself as “pro-business” and said it would be good if more TDs had a better understanding of the business agenda, which “isn’t a negative one, it’s a very positive one”.

Appointed Fianna Fáil’s deputy campaign manager in the Donegal South West byelection, Mr Calleary conceded he will come under pressure in his own constituency of Mayo come a general election.