Taoiseach wants more Croke Park deal savings


FURTHER PUBLIC sector savings are to be discussed under the Croke Park agreement, Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Dáil.

“The Government must meet its budgetary targets in a way which minimises cuts to frontline public services,” he said. “This means we must achieve the maximum possible savings which do not impact on services as a consequence.”

Mr Kenny said he had instructed Ministers last week to provide “their best assessment of the maximum that can be squeezed from the Croke Park agreement, which we would like to see implemented in full in an accelerated fashion”.

That analysis, he said, would be returned to him this week and he intended discussing it with the Croke Park agreement implementation body when Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin and himself assessed it.

The Taoiseach’s remarks followed the Government’s admission to backing down on cutting €75 million in public service allowances over fears it might imperil the agreement.

At Opposition leaders’ questions yesterday, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the admission represented a “humiliating climbdown, cave-in and huge retreat” from Mr Howlin’s opening position. Mr Howlin, he said, had been adamant he would achieve a fairly modest target of €75 million, but in the end he was in a position to make only one change in allowances out of 1,100.

“This is an extraordinary outcome of a very lengthy examination from a new, up and coming department meant to cut a swathe through relics of the past,” he added.

Mr Martin said the allowances included a bus allowance of €4.40 where car parking spaces were provided.

“We cannot believe that new entrants must be targeted for all savings,” he added. “This will create its own problems down the line.” Mr Kenny said the agreement had been in situ for some time and had delivered industrial peace and a significant reduction in the numbers working in the public sector and its cost.

He added that while one allowance was abolished, 180 categories were to be changed and 200 others were to be reviewed.

Describing Mr Kenny’s response as “fairly pathetic”, Mr Martin asked what Ministers had been doing for months on the agreement.