26 September 2023

IRELAND: Backlash follows call for sacking

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The Spokesman on Housing for Ireland’s Opposition Sinn Féin Party has caused a storm by saying Chief Economist in the Department of Finance, John McCarthy should be sacked over advice he gave the Government.

Eoin Ó Broin backtracked on his remarks, made in a tent at a music festival in Roscommon, saying they were ill-judged and off the cuff, but borne of frustration with Mr McCarthy’s advice that the Government should not increase spending on housing.

“At a time when an ever-growing number of people cannot access affordable homes, and increased investment in social and affordable housing is required to ensure those people can access affordable homes, such ill-conceived advice is a contributory factor to the housing crisis,” Mr Ó Broin (pictured) said.

“I don’t believe the individual who gave the advice should be sacked, but I also don’t believe he should be informing Government housing policy.”

The controversy has its roots in a report by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) which found the Government had the capacity to “prudently borrow” up to €7 billion ($A10.7 billion) a year to provide extra funding to build thousands of additional social homes.

The ESRI recommendation broadly supported Mr Ó Broin’s view that the State then had capacity to borrow to invest in housing.

However, the report was rejected out of hand by Finance, which described it as “detached from reality”.

Mr Ó Broin’s initial remarks were jumped on by Taoiseach (Prime Minister), Micheál Martin who said these types of personal derogatory comments about Public Servants had no place in Irish politics.

“We have seen what happened in the United States and the United Kingdom when various Governments dismissed objective opinions from Civil Servants, in some cases sacking them — it’s disruptive, shifty and risky,” Mr Martin said.

General Secretary of the Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants, Ciaran Rohan said he was “absolutely happy to agree” with the Taoiseach.

Dublin, 31 October 2022

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