Thursday, October 04, 2012

Positive Public Service

Romantic Ireland's Dead and Gone,
It's with Whitaker in Retirement
Tom Geraghty's myopic and formulaic defence of the public sector in today's Irish Times made me mad again, but not for the usual reasons.  The gap between public sector and private sector average wages was ignored (50% according the the CSO, see page 2), and of course private sector unemployment and emigration was not considered.  It's nothing new, we've seen this kind of trade union bluster before, and I won't waste any more electrons on that here.

It strikes me that we never have any positive, progressive representation of the Public Sector - and of public service generally - from its leadership.  Now, it can be argued whether trades unions represent genuine leadership of the sort I am describing, rather than representation for the purposes of industrial relations, but again I won't engage with that argument here.  What I will say is that if trades unions consider themselves genuine leaders as opposed to mere representatives, they've not been demonstrating any of that recently.

The question that I'd like to see addressed is "What is the role of the public service in the reconstruction of the country?" For too long, the public service has drifted along without the benefit of design or strategy.  How does the public service become a more overt representation of the state?  How can we make public servants proud to be public servants again?  There was a time when public service was seen as a noble pursuit, one that was not undertaken for financial reasons.  It seems to have turned into a handy number, something with guaranteed pension, tenure, and perks.  That's just wrong.

The public service should be a shining light, an example to other employers in the State, and an extension of the brand of the State itself.  I know many, many public servants.  They feel defensive, under-appreciated, enormously de-motivated, and trapped.  Croke Park or no Croke Park, trying to drive better performance under those conditions is like pushing rope.  Our public institutions should operate to a higher standard, they should be aspirational places, staffed by inspirational people.  Where are the TK Whitaker's of this generation?  Why are they not writing opinion pieces in the Irish Times?  

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