Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Civil Servants' Involvement in Politics.

Wednesday, 27 May 1992

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 420 No. 4

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  7.  Mr. G. Mitchell  Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell   asked the Minister for Finance  Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern   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.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern): Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I have no plans to review the existing rules relating to civil servants and politics.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay 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 [635] 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: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie 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: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay 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——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I appeal for brevity for obvious reasons. There are a number of questions to be disposed of within the required time limit.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  I am not suggesting that a great number of civil servants would take that option but it is time they had the right should they so wish.

[636]Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Without going into a lengthy reply, I have no difficulty in researching what happens in other countries but I would not like to make any commitment in this regard.


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