If the number of junior ministers is to be abolished, it should only be done as part of a root and branch reform of Government and the public service, according to Galway West TD Frank Fahey.
This week, Green Sen Dan Boyle called for the number of junior ministers to be reduced from 20 to 17 as part of the Government’s efforts to cut down on costs and to save money now that Ireland is in recession.
Fianna Fáil TD Martin Manseragh, the junior minister at the Department of Finance, said he would accept the abolition of his post if that would help the public finances. However Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said reducing the number of junior ministers would only be a “cosmetic” exercise.
Galway West TD Frank Fahey, as well as serving as Minister for the Marine, has held numerous junior ministerial posts throughout his career at the departments of health, education, tourism, and justice.
Dep Fahey believes there is merit to what Sen Boyle is saying, but he would only agree to changes in numbers of junior ministers if it is “part of an overall restructuring of the public service”.
Dep Fahey believes there is need for “fundamental and radical reform” of the public service and he is calling on the Taoiseach to establish an office of Public Service Innovation to carry this out.
“It should be made up of the best civil servants and the best of the private sector and should carry out a root and branch reform,” he told the Galway Advertiser. “In that context Government ministers, Ministers of State, and their roles should be looked at.”
He said there are “wonderful people” working in the public service but that they are “afraid of change” and also “restricted by archaic structures”, but this is all the more reason to embrace change.
Speaking about his experience of junior ministries, Dep Fahey said: “The role of Ministers of State should be looked at. I find now, as a chairman of an Oireachtas committee, that I can get more done than when I was a junior minister. Junior ministers are not really in a position to take action on their own initiative.”