Ethics watchdog backs staff called ‘lazy’ by FF’s Marc MacSharry

Backbench TD accused public servants of ‘lying on couch’ while binging on box sets

Marc MacSharry: ‘Not getting into individual cases because they are far too numerous to mention.’

Marc MacSharry: ‘Not getting into individual cases because they are far too numerous to mention.’

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The State’s ethics watchdog has expressed pride in the work of its “professional and dedicated staff” after it emerged that it was the agency cited by Government backbencher Marc MacSharry, in complaints about “lazy” public servants who “lie on the couch and watch box sets”.

Mr MacSharry named the agency, the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) at Fianna Fáil’s parliamentary party meeting, several colleagues confirmed.

One backbencher said “he was expressing his frustration” about difficulties in making contact with State agencies during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In controversial remarks in the Dáil last week the Fianna Fáil Sligo-Leitrim TD accused public servants of laziness and said he had had “dealings” recently with one State agency “where no one will be back in that office until the end of August”. They are working from home and “you have to talk to an answering machine”.

He had praised the work of some public servants in their efforts to deal the pandemic. But he contrasted that with “many elements” in the public service who are “using this situation as cover to lie on the couch and watch box sets, returning an odd call here and there and doing the maximum of the minimum to tick over during this period”.

Head of ethics and lobbying regulation for Sipo Sherry Perrault said that like all public bodies and many private ones Sipo is working remotely during the public health crisis.

“Throughout this period of disruption and uncertainty, the commission has worked to ensure the continued and effective delivery of its mandate, in particular, timely support and guidance to stakeholders with statutory obligations.”

Bullish MacSharry

She said “secretariat staff members are currently working remotely and have maintained services to stakeholders throughout this period. The commission is proud of the work of its professional and dedicated staff, who have adapted quickly and well to the change in circumstances and are continuing to deliver effectively on the commission’s statutory mandate.”

Contacted for his response Mr MacSharry said he was “not getting into individual cases because they are far too numerous to mention”.

But he said “I welcome the fact that two days after my remarks, and the reaction that it procured” a circular was issued last Thursday “that everybody should unless absolutely necessary be back in their normal place of work, which I think is in line with the public health advice and it’ll serve society better”.

Mr MacSharry was referring to a shift in Government policy last week when public sector staff were told they would be required to return to workplaces “when and as necessary, and deemed appropriate by their employer”.

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