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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 2 Mar 1993

Vol. 427 No. 2

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Partnership Programme Managers.

Jim Higgins


1 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach the number of meetings which have taken place of the Partnership Programme Managers under the chairmanship of the chairman of the group; and if he will give an up-date on the progress of those meetings.

The first meeting of the partnership programme managers is taking place today under the chairmanship of the programme manager in my Department following the appointment of all the programme managers.

The full group will meet regularly as required and programme managers will be responsible within their Departments for ensuring progress on matters arising from the Partnership Programme for Government as it relates to their Department.

Does the Taoiseach realise the justifiable public anger and revulsion at these appointments, particularly the naked hypocrisy, extravagance and nepotism of the Labour Party? Does he realise that this will be heightened by virtue of the fact that the programme managers will receive £40,500 each and that annually they will cost £500,000, and, despite the fact that the Government has been in office for two months, they have not had one solitary co-ordinating meeting until today?

The Deputy is well aware that there are guidelines in place for the appointment of people to Ministers and their Departments when they come into Government. The position is that just one partnership programme manager has been appointed in addition to what is provided for in the guidelines. It is not true to say — as Deputy Higgins tries to portray — that what they get is 10 per cent over the salary they had in whatever position they held before being appointed.

Is it not a fact that while Fianna Fáil, as a major partner in Government, has appointed people from the Civil Service whose salary has required additional topping up, in the case of the Labour Ministers their partnership programme managers have come from the private sector? Therefore, we are talking about £40,500 minimum, plus expenses. May I also ask the Taoiseach whether this is a new concept of Government and whether these appointments are superfluous? If one wants to monitor a programme for Government, and assess it, the most effective way to do so is to bring together the heads of the Civil Service who are well qualified, financially rewarded and have the experience to do the job——

The Deputy is tending to make statements rather than ask questions.

In order to co-ordinate this Coalition Government's programme for Government regular meetings of the heads of Departments are required.

Regardless of from where the partnership programme managers came, the same principle applied whether they came from the private or the public sector. There is nothing wrong with having a good mix of public and private sector people ensuring that the programme for Government is carried through. That is the priority for the Government and that is the priority for the people outside. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating, when the Deputy will see the results. He should not jump to conclusions.

So far the results have not been so good.

A devalued currency and the worst budget in the nation's history.


I am calling Deputy Durkan.

May I ask the Taoiseach if it is envisaged that the programme managers will meet if there is a crisis?

That is totally irrelevant to the question before us.

May I explain further?

There is no room for explaining at Question Time.

During the currency crisis and the crisis in regard to Digital was it considered necessary to have a meeting of the programme managers?

Deputy Durkan should speak to his leader about having a programme managers crisis meeting in his party to decide whether they are in favour of devaluation.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): I should like to deal with the Taoiseach's higher maths.

School teacher.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): No, I just want to understand the basics. The advisers will receive only 10 per cent extra; is that in addition to their existing salary? Have they left their present positions and, if so, do they have to be replaced?

Civil servants who have taken on the role as programme managers are not being replaced, they are from within the existing complement of the Civil Service.

I am calling Deputy Enda Kenny. These questions cannot go on interminably and I will bring them to a conclusion shortly.

You are a programme manager yourself, a Cheann Comhairle.

Mr. Kenny

Is the Taoiseach aware that the direct involvement of civil servants in the political process by their appointment as programme managers is causing a great deal of unease in the Civil Service? How does he view this in terms of the workings of the Civil Service and the responsibilities of civil servants?

I do not regard the appointment of programme managers and the duties they carry out as part of the political process. It is a matter of monitoring, organising and getting the programme up and running in each Department and to meet at regular intervals to ensure that that is happening.

May I ask the Taoiseach if, in respect of the controversy surrounding the appointments by the Labour Party, he is fearful that it will damage the image of Fianna Fáil?

Quote your sources, Deputy.

I appreciate the Deputy's concern.

The answer to that is privileged.

I am calling Deputy Jim O'Keeffe for a final question.


The Taoiseach has admitted that the first meeting of this group has only been arranged for today. I wish to ask him two questions. Will he confirm that the arrangements to hold the first meeting were only put in place following the tabling of the question by Deputy Jim Higgins? Will he say whether these programme managers are operating on a solo basis or will they be supported in their respective Departments by secretarial and other assistants, thus leading to further costs and expenditure?

It is not true that the first meeting was called following the tabling of the question by Deputy Jim Higgins. I know that Deputies O'Keeffe and Higgins would like to think that when they say something the Government jumps to attention. That is not the position. The Government is quite capable of running the country and will continue to do so. The sooner the Deputies opposite realise that they are in for a long haul on the Opposition benches the better it will be for them. They should not be jumping to any conclusions.

The Government has a lot of expensive help.

The programme managers operate within the Department to which they are appointed. That is the reality; there is no——

Will they have secretaries?

Sorry, I am calling Deputy De Rossa for a final question on this subject.

Will the Taoiseach indicate what might be on the agenda of the meeting of the programme managers today? Will the cuts announced by the Minister last Tuesday in the community employment development programme in the 12 area-based strategy areas be part of the agenda? Will the people who will be employed under this scheme over the next 12 months have their income cut by £600 a year?

The agenda for the meeting of the programme managers is the programme for Government.

Will that item be part of the agenda?

Question No. 2, please.

Austin Deasy


2 Mr. Deasy asked the Taoiseach if he will explain the concept of open Government as enunciated by him on his elevation to the office of Taoiseach; and the way in which he has promoted this concept during 1992.

I would define open Government as a commitment to consultation, to partnership and participation, and to greater accountability.

Last year, for example, the people were consulted on two major issues in referenda, the Maastricht Treaty on European Union, and the question of the right to life, the right to travel and the right to information. Further consultation of the people on the question of divorce is planned by 1994. I have instructed all my Ministers to give the maximum possible amount of information in reply to parliamentary questions.

I consulted with the other party leaders on a number of important occasions. I have had prepared a radical programme of Dáil reform, which will improve openness and accountability and the role and effectivenes of the Dáil as a control on the Executive. I am the first political leader to have given a comprehensive public statement of my financial interests. There has been a continued open commitment to social partnership with trade unions, farmers and employers, which is now complemented by partnership in Government with the Labour Party.

Government buildings have been opened to the public. I have ensured that all Government records are fully open to historians after 30 years, in accordance with the legislation.

I and the Government are committed to a comprehensive and enlightened programme of social reform and equality which will open up opportunities for disadvantaged groups in our society. I made it clear from early last year that I want nothing to do with closed or golden circles, and that Government should be accessible and open to all. I am satisfied that I have made some progress towards creating a more open Government and society.

I would not agree with that reply. The reason I put down this question is because of the Taoiseach's evasion of questions. Three weeks ago the Taoiseach refused to give a straight answer to a question about Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution. Two weeks ago I put down a specific question to him about a meeting or meetings he may have had with Chancellor Kohl and he transferred the question to the Minister for Finance. I do not call that openness; I call it the very opposite.

The Deputy should ask questions, if he has them.

The Deputy is bringing in a lot of extraneous matter. Let us have direct, relevant questions, please.

That is the idea. I want to know if the Taoiseach will take the advice he has given to his Ministers, that is, give straight answers to Deputies' questions.

I always give straight answers to straight questions. I always give long answers, for which I have been accused from time to time in the House of using to waste time. I give answers which I believe are correct and if Deputy Deasy is not satisfied with this I am sorry but I cannot help him any further.

Why did the Taoiseach transfer a specific question to him?

I am calling Deputy Currie.

I have answered more questions as Taoiseach than any of my predecessors.

Why did the Taoiseach transfer the question?

Order, Deputy Currie has been called.

I wish to express my disappointment at the limited nature of the Taoiseach's interpretation of openness. Would the Taoiseach agree that openness which depends on Government is selfdefeating and that for it to have any meaning openness should have a statutory basis, for example, a public information Act which would have a statutory basis so that the public, rather than just Members of this House, would have a right to information? Would he agree that what is required is that the ordinary citizen should have a statutory right to information from Government Departments, local authorities, semi-State bodies and other organisations? That is what is meant by openness, as is the case in other countries, rather than the limited openness which the Taoiseach has trotted out and which is meaningless?

I would refer the Deputy to the programme for Government which states that the Government will examine the whole question of a freedom of information Bill.

Deputy Charles Flanagan.

The Labour Party said it would do this but it has been watered down.

We have so much information that the Deputy would not want to hear it all.

Much of it has been covered up.


We are hearing the information from a number of quarters in the Labour Party. The Taoiseach in his reply referred to the concept of the golden circle and may I ask him if he would agree that the golden circle has now been replaced by the family circle?

The extended family circle.

In regard to openness in Government, and in the Dáil, may I ask the Taoiseach what contribution to openness he considers will be made by a system of elaborate Dáil committees, the chairman and the convenors of which will be members of the Government parties? Does he consider that to be openness in terms of access to information?

We are having quite an extension of this subject matter.

I do not think there would be any complaints from the other side of the House if all the appointments were confined to members of the Fine Gael Party.

Has the Taoiseach instructed the members of his Government to issue information in regard to the allocation of grants, the allocation of contracts and the approval of major capital projects to members of the Government parties at least one week before members of the Opposition parties can have access to it and, if so, if he would agree that this is obvious evidence of another golden circle being operated?

What did the Deputy operate?

The Deputy is raising separate matters.

I issued no such instructions.

May I elaborate? I did not want to ask many questions but the Taoiseach said he had instructed his Ministers to give the maximum information in replying to questions and that no closed or golden circles were to be operated. It is evident that there is a closed or golden circle operating in regard to the dissemination of information by Ministers.

We are having statements rather than questions.

I issued no such instructions.

The Taoiseach said he issued no such instructions. Will he ensure, therefore, that information is made available to all Deputies at the same time?

I am calling Deputy Jim Higgins.

In regard to the question of open Government, may I ask the Taoiseach, if he is so intent on providing open Government, why he has given up his weekly briefing to political correspondents?

That was a pilot scheme, the continuation of which I do not regard as being necessary.

Does the Taoiseach regard the calling of an unnecessary general election as part of the concept of open Government and would he not agree that the greatest example of open Government was to have listened to the electorate when they said clearly that he should be in Opposition?

Deputy Barrett need have no worries at all. We will not give him something that he did not want, and does not want, for four years. He can rest assured and take comfort in that fact.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Would the Taoiseach agree that it is a pity after his long list of achievements that he did not finish off his answer by saying:

My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

In the history of politics in Ireland I have never yet heard of a Government being judged on six weeks' performance.

You have been there a lot longer than six weeks.

The Deputy had better get used to it; we are here for the long haul.