State's most senior civil servant to step down

Sat, Apr 9, 2011, 01:00

THE STATE’S most senior civil servant, Dermot McCarthy, is retiring early as part of sweeping changes at the top of the Civil Service, following the election of the new Government.

Mr McCarthy, who is secretary general of the Department of the Taoiseach, informed colleagues yesterday that he intended to step down a few months ahead of schedule as part of a major reorganisation of the Civil Service.

He also announced the Government had decided to create a new post of second secretary in the Department of the Taoiseach to support the Economic Management Council established by the Coalition.

The council is composed of Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin.

The second secretary will also oversee the process of EU co-ordination, a crucial role in the light of the EU-IMF bailout programme.

In a message to colleagues, Mr McCarthy said the search for his successor and the new second secretary would begin immediately. Expressions of interest were being sought across the Civil Service for these posts as well as the new post of secretary general of the new Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Earlier this week Mr Howlin announced that the Government had decided to reform the arrangements for appointing most senior civil servants.

“This Government is committed to reforming the public sector and this reform must happen from the top down. In line with the programme for government, the structure of the top-level appointments committee (TLAC) will be radically overhauled so that the chairperson and the majority of members will be drawn from outside the public sector,” said Mr Howlin.

He added that in addition to transforming the structure of TLAC, new approaches to attract external candidates to these top jobs would also be considered.

The Minister said the relevant Civil Service posts should be filled by way of a fair and competitive process designed to find the best person for the job. “If it is necessary to use an element of headhunting, this will be done. It is essential the right people capable of taking on the complex challenges our country faces now, and in the future are in place.”

Mr McCarthy has been the most powerful civil servant in the country for a decade and was centrally involved in social partnership.

He was appointed secretary to the government in January 2000 and combined that role with secretary to the Department of the Taoiseach in July 2001.

In an e-mail to senior colleagues yesterday, he said he wanted to let them know about some changes that were about to happen that would affect the Taoiseach’s department in its work.

“As you know, my term is due to finish in a few months and it is appropriate for the Government to begin the process of selecting my successor . . .

“With these changes, and with the changes already affecting the Public Service Modernisation Division, we are entering a new phase of the life and work of the department,” said Mr McCarthy.

“This is a very challenging time for the new Government and for the country, and it requires the whole-hearted response of the public service in line with the values and principles to which we are committed.

“I know that the department will continue to provide the professional and quality service which is its hallmark as these various changes come into effect,” he said.