Taoiseach and Tánaiste council is too exclusive - Burton

Minister claims economic council is under undue influence of advisers

Mon, Jul 29, 2013, 06:05

A senior Minister has reignited Government debate on the powerful Economic Management Council (EMC) by suggesting it may be dominated by a narrow cohort of civil servants and special advisers.

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has claimed the EMC, whose membership is confined to the four most senior members of Government, is not seeing the “big picture” of the Irish economy because of its exclusive nature and the influence of non-elected officials from only four departments.

The EMC is comprised of Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin and decides on all key economic policy decisions. It has been criticised for being a “star chamber” that bypasses the collective decision-making of Cabinet and the Opposition has questioned its constitutionality

Ms Burton had previously criticised the EMC for excluding Ministers from the “big-beast” spending departments – social protection, health, education and justice.

Now, in an interview with The Irish Times, she has expressed fears about the influence of advisers and senior civil servants.

‘Major fear’
“My major fear about the EMC, to be honest, is not the four Ministers who are there even though I think there could be a broader participation.

“I certainly would be concerned that given the more limited participation of the number of Ministers in it that it would be dominated by civil servants and policy advisers.

“You have to see the big picture of the Irish economy. You have to see unemployment figures, people at work and people in big-spending departments are a critical [part of it],” she said.

“It’s important that when you are discussing economic policy and management that you have the participation of those departments.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Ms Burton argued that the main thrust of Government policy should be making clear its main priority was creating and restoring jobs.