Taoiseach urged to rebuke colleague over ‘lazy’ public servants claim

Sinn Féin TD says Marc MacSharry’s remarks were ‘wrong, offensive and divisive’

A Government backbencher has accused public servants of laziness and claimed that they are using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to “lie on the couch and watch box sets”. Video: Oireachtas TV

 

A call has been made for the Taoiseach to dissociate Fianna Fáil and the Government from remarks by one of his TDs accusing public servants of laziness and using the Covid-19 crisis as an excuse to “lie on the couch and watch box sets”.

Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin has written to Micheál Martin about the comments by Sligo-Leitrim TD Marc MacSharry which he said were “wrong, offensive and divisive”.

Mr MacSharry had alleged that public sector productivity had fallen and this was “unacceptable” as he launched a broadside attack on “many elements of our State agencies, Government departments and local authorities” who he claimed were opportunistic in using the crisis “to do nothing”.

The Fianna Fáil TD 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”.

In the letter to the Taoiseach, Mr Ó Broin asked if Mr MacSharry’s remarks “are representative of the policies of Fianna Fáil and of your Government? If not I would strongly urge you to make a public comment on the matter distancing you, your party and your Government from such remarks”.

Defending the public service Mr Ó Broin said that “both public and private sector workers are doing everything they can in the national interest while at the same time making significant sacrifices”.

“To be treated in this manner by a Government TD will undoubtedly impact on morale and cohesion in the public sector.

“It also potentially creates division between public and private sector workers.”

Mr MacSharry had praised staff in the Department of Social Protection who had got so many Covid-related schemes up and running and “managed to get money to people pretty quickly, in the main. They deserve much credit”.

But he contrasted that effort 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”.

Whether it was “opportunism... laziness and/or poor management, it needs to be addressed because the country needs all its officials working at full tilt to get productivity levels up to the maximum so we get through this crisis in the best possible way”. He contrasted poor public sector performance with private sector activity much of which was back “at full tilt”.

He said staff in his own office “did not stop for an hour since the onset of Covid-19”.

Speaking during a debate on legislation putting the pandemic unemployment payment on a statutory footing, Mr MacSharry said he knew Minister for Enterprise Heather Humphreys had “worked at full tilt throughout this time. I know I have, as have many colleagues, probably all, in the political world.

“Many people are not, however, and that needs to be addressed.”