‘Town hall’ forums to discuss reform of Civil Service

Measures are part of Brendan Howlin’s reform programme

The Bill to abolish severance pay is being sponsored by Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin.

The Bill to abolish severance pay is being sponsored by Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin.


Some of the highest officials in government departments are to hold “town hall” meetings with civil servants at venues across the country to seek their opinions on how the Civil Service can be improved.

Two of the most senior officials in the Civil Service, Martin Fraser, the secretary general of the Department of the Taoiseach, and Robert Watt, the secretary general of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, will be at the meetings, alongside secretaries general from other departments.

The initiative is part of a Civil Service renewal programme being driven by both departments.

Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin is to announce the move today in a speech to a conference organised by Eolas magazine.

‘Renewal process’
“In the coming days, every civil servant will be given the opportunity to give their views on what the Civil Service does well and what needs to change and participate in the renewal process,” Mr Howlin will say.

“As well as participating in this process online, a series of ‘town hall’ meetings will, starting next week, be held across the country to brief civil servants on the issues being addressed and to seek their input and ideas.”

Two of the meetings will take place in Dublin, with one each in the southwest, southeast, west, mideast and northwest. It is the first time secretaries general will have embarked on such a consultative process.

The Central Statistics Office will collate and analyse the views from the meetings, which will take place in State-owned buildings.

Contribute ideas
Civil servants will also be able to contribute ideas on how to improve the service via government websites, and the public will also be canvassed for their opinions in a separate process.

Some workshops have already taken place with staff, and initial feedback has included a desire to reaffirm traditional values, such as the independence of the Civil Service and its duty of “speaking truth to power”.

Ministers have also been giving their opinions to a reform team.

Mr Watt said he hoped the renewal process will lead to changes such as a greater emphasis on learning, upskilling and development, as well as more accountability and flexibility, such as making it easier to remove underperforming staff.

The process is due to be completed by summer, when Mr Howlin is expected to bring proposals to Cabinet.