Wednesday, 27 May 1992
Dáil Éireann Debate
7. Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider amending the current rules concerning the involvement of civil servants in politics; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Mr. G. Mitchell: I wish to pay tribute to the Civil Service for their marvellous independence and record to date but would the Minister agree that it is time to consider the imposition which these regulations place on the rights of civil servants to enjoy similar privileges to those enjoyed by the rest of our citizens? Is he aware that in many countries civil servants are allowed take an active role in party politics once it is openly declared  and they operate within a certain ethic and within well defined rules and regulations? Is it not time, 70 years after the foundation of the State, to allow our civil servants similar rights and privileges to those enjoyed by citizens in other countries?
Mr. B. Ahern: I know that some countries operate such a system, but our civil servants have maintained a tradition of absolute impartiality in political matters, a system that has served us well. People who join the Civil Service as a career know the basic conditions attached, and I am not aware of any great demand to change the system. In some countries it is not easy to govern the regulations in this area and difficulties can arise. Our system has served us well for 70 years. I know that some changes have been made in the broader public service over the years, but civil servants have always worked closely with Ministers and I see no reason to change the position.
Mr. G. Mitchell: I accept the general thrust of what the Minister has said in relation to the Civil Service to date. However, I would ask him to consider the position in other countries where members of parliament and ministers often come from the civil service and go back to it. Does the Minister not consider that it is time to grant to civil servants the same rights enjoyed by citizens in other countries and to allow them the privilege to exercise these rights, which would be governed by a code of ethics and regulations setting out the circumstances in which that could be done? I am not suggesting——
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