Kenny tells Barrett to ‘cop himself on’ over public service statement

A war of words has broken out between Leader of Fine Gael Enda Kenny TD and local Labour Party PRO Harry Barrett over the issue of public service inefficiencies.

The argument began when Mr Barrett lashed out at Deputy Kenny on his recent statement which contended that the public services were “bloated” and that Mr Kenny had advised the Government to reform public services five years ago to increase efficiencies.

In reply Dep Kenny told the Labour man to “cop himself on”, and clarified that the public service is bloated in the area of bureaucratic administrators.

Mr Barrett had asked Dep Kenny to come out and explain where he thinks the public services are bloated. “Is he telling teachers, nurses, gardaí and county council staff here in Mayo that they are not efficient and that they are responsible in some way for the economic downturn? Should nurses is our county hospital now endure a 15-month pay freeze as they take up the extra workload?

“He and his deputies are constantly bombarding the airwaves here in Mayo about the lack of nurses, teachers and gardaí, yet here he is, lecturing us that the public sector is bloated and that he stands behind the Fine Gael policy of a pay freeze for public sector workers for 15 months. It seems he has one point of view in Dublin for the business sector and one for us here in Mayo. He is being hypocritical and at the same time naïve.”

Dep Kenny has accused Mr Barrett of either looking for notice or being deliberately mischievous and he reminded the Labour member of the joint Labour and Fine Gael programme of a year ago based on preserving and enhancing front line services like gardaí, nurses and teachers.

Mr Barrett advised Dep Kenny not to take his eye off the target. “Lets be clear about it, the names behind Ireland’s economic woes are not Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac. They are Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen. The main cause of the economic downturn was the reckless housing policies of Fianna Fáil and crazy lending by the banks that has led to a housing bubble that employed 25 per cent of the workforce. He should not get sucked in by Government spin.

“The Government needs a scapegoat and the public sector is fitting the bill. The public sector workers never caused an economic downturn. And indeed, it is to education, the knowledge economy and the public sector workers within it, that Mr Kenny should look to take us out of it.”

Dep Kenny has reminded Mr Barrett of the tenor of many of his own speeches made both in the Dáil and outside of the Dáil. “They have been about restoring Ireland’s economic competitiveness where vital front-line services would not be cut. He should also recall that five years ago, I made it clear that if €1bn extra was to be paid to the public service it should be on the basis of higher performance and greater efficiency for the tax payer.”

In explaining his comments Dep Kenny has said the public service is bloated in the area of bureaucratic administrators. He asked Mr Barrett if he did not recognise that the HSE is completely over-administered, a fact which is being recognised by Minister Mary Harney, who is talking about a redundancy scheme.

“We need more nurses, more teachers and more gardaí, not less, but the point made by me is that in cutting services by Fianna Fáil, it is always these front-line services that get hit.

“We have at least three ministers of state too many. This Government have set up 250 quangos in the past ten years, many of which have outlived their remit. People cannot get answers to their questions, or the service they expect, from many sectors. Everyone knows public servants who work above and beyond the call of duty but this does not apply across the board.

“I don’t need any advice from Harry Barrett,” Dep Kenny concluded. “I respect his having an opinion and he is entitled to have one but he should read my statements and appraise himself of Fine Gael’s economic plans before attacking me in such an untrue and nonsensical fashion.”

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