Howlin provokes fury by branding critics 'simple'
on 25/09/2012 00:00:00
Despite having to revise the promised €75m savings to just €3.5m as Mr Howlin abolished only one of 1,100 pay supplements, he insisted he had presided over major achievements.
Mr Howlin sparked the clash by hitting out at "simple" commentators who criticised failures to slash the €1.5bn allowance bill, insisting he had brought in more reforms in the past 18 months than governments had managed in the previous 20 years.
Michael McGrath, Fianna Fáil's finance spokesman, expressed disgust at the minister's attitude.
"I think it was a very ignorant comment from the minister. And I think it is one he should withdraw. It behoves a minister to insult people in that way. The criticism of his major climbdown on allowances has been wholly justified."
Mr Howlin said many of the allowances amounted to "core pay" in the public service and so would not be suitable for cuts as he accused people of a "lack of understanding" about his agenda.
"We've done more in terms of reform in the past 18 months than we have in the last 20 years," he told RTÉ.
"We've halved sick pay, reformed annual leave and overtime and set about a different way of procuring €9bn for the public service. That's what reform is.
"There are some crude comments that somehow suggest cutting pay is the only thing that amounts to reform. I was given a job to totally reform the public service. To have a comple-tely new way of looking at how we pay public servants, how we structure the public service, to break down barriers and deliver services in a reformed way."
He dismissed concerns at his failure to substantially reduce the allowance budget by claiming critics were "fixated on a tree" when he was trying "to control a forest".
He said the promised allowance savings had not been factored into overall Government spending plans, and core pay needed to be protected. "If we removed the allowances for gardaí it would have reduced their core pay by 20%. We need to integrate allowances to core pay - it's under way in education and defence. It's a complex and overlapping issue."
The comments came as Pat Rabbitte, the energy and natural resources minister, backed calls by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions leader, David Begg, to incorporate outdated" allowance structures into general pay rates. Mr Begg called for trade unions and public sector managers to hammer out a new deal.
Mr Rabbitte said such a move would be "sensible" as he noted that some allowances were justified due to particular working conditions in parts of the public service.
Such reform was also supported by Education Minister Ruairi Quinn, who branded the present structure "confusing".