Coalition’s ‘quango cull’ falls well short of promises

Some 33 new bodies have been set up by Government

The so-called quango cull promised by both Coalition parties before the last general election may amount to only a handful fewer State agencies when the Government’s term of office comes to an end. Despite a Government pledge to abolish or merge almost 100 State agencies, only 45 have been abolished or are due to be culled. Meanwhile, 33 new bodies have been createdsince the Coalition came to power.

In the run-up to the 2011 general election Fine Gael and Labour separately promised to abolish dozens of what they described as wasteful and inefficient State agencies on assuming office. Fine Gael went so far as to promise to abolish 145 quangos. In November 2011 Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin announced ambitious Coalition plans to abolish or merge almost 100 State agencies.

Net reduction
However, sluggish implementation and a slew of new and proposed agencies has meant that the net reduction in quangos may be fewer than 20 by the time of the next general election, which is expected in the spring of 2016. Some 28 agencies and bodies have been abolished during the Government's first three years of office, according to analysis carried out by The Irish Times into the Government's rationalisation programme. There are plans in progress for the abolition of a further 17 agencies, bringing the total to 45.

However, on the other side of the equation, some 33 agencies and bodies have been established or proposed by Government during the same period. Some of the planned agencies, including those proposed by Minister for Health James Reilly for the universal health insurance era, might not materialise.

However, some of the quangos created by the Government are significantly bigger than those being scrapped.


These new agencies, with cumulative costs of hundreds of millions of euro, include Irish Water, New Era and the Insolvency Service of Ireland. A new court of criminal appeal is also in the process of being established. The marginal savings from merged and rationalised agencies will be more than offset by the large costs associated with the new agencies. In addition, if all the proposed agencies are established, the net reduction in quangos may be as low as 12.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times