I am afraid it is not credible to say that by his statement at the weekend the Taoiseach has got himself into the driving seat. The Taoiseach has been in the driving seat for 18 months in this country.
Prior to that, he was in the seat beside the driver as he was in the Department of Finance for an extended period. I am not prepared to go along with the notion that the Taoiseach now has credibility on public sector reform. He just does not have that credibility. There is a cabinet sub-committee that is supposed to be meeting on this issue for the last year and a half, but the Taoiseach could not even answer the question yesterday on whether that committee had met. I understood from his response that it has not met. It is no use saying the Taoiseach has now put himself into the driving seat. The Taoiseach has had every opportunity for 18 months and more to address these issues, but he has failed to do so, along with his Government.
It is perfectly legitimate for people to criticise the public service and to call for reform, as I have. The problem is that the debate has become suffused with anecdote, prejudice and worse. Everybody has their story about the public service and what should happen. However, the Government gets to do more than what we get to do, which is to come in here and call for things to happen. It is ludicrous for RTE to report the Taoiseach as “calling” for public service reform. That is what we do in here. We call for things but unfortunately we have little or no power to deliver them. The Taoiseach does not get to call for things. He gets to do things. That is why he is the Taoiseach.
We should forget about calling for things and expressing wishes. Let us have a balanced review of the problems that exist and of the issues in the public service that require reform. That can be done in a relatively short period. Let us then have some action on the issue. People who are marching on the streets are being told they are the problem, but they are not the problem. Cuts do not amount to reform. If people are serious about reform, let us have a balanced assessment on what needs to be done and then let us have some action.