26 September 2023

IRELAND: Minorities hit PS cultural ceiling

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A new report has revealed that not a single applicant from the private sector or from an ethnic minority was recommended for appointment to the senior ranks of the Irish Public Service in 2020 or 2021.

The Top Level Appointments Committee’s (TLAC’s) annual report warns that the Public Service risks becoming “introspective, homogenous and mono-cultural, ceasing to be reflective of the society it serves” if it continues along this track.

The TLAC is responsible for the recruitment process for senior roles in the Public Service.

The report also raised concerns about the lack of an open competition for the Secretary General posts in the Departments of the Taoiseach (Prime Minister), Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, Foreign Affairs and the President’s Office.

The Government appointed John Callinan (pictured) as the new Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach, the most powerful Public Service position in the State, earlier this year without an open competition.

Outgoing Chair of the TLAC, Conor Brady said it would be better if these appointments went through the TLAC process.

“It would also stand to the credit of the State were it to embrace the highest degree of transparency, openness and fair procedure across all of its senior recruitment processes,” Mr Brady said in the report.

He noted that the proportion of candidates from the private sector recommended for appointment had declined consistently since 2012 when just over a fifth of recommended appointments were from that area.

“Were this trend to continue over time it would bode ill for the diversity and, in time, the effectiveness of the Civil Service,” he said.

“Far-reaching questions should be asked about the lack of ethnic diversity in the pool of applicants to the TLAC.”

Mr Brady said no members of any ethnic minority group came through the TLAC process, and it criticised the lack of data available on ethnicity, nationality and other forms of diversity.

He noted it was frequently the case that a Secretary General in a Department saw a choice to be made between a candidate who could hit the ground running and one who might have long-term potential.

The Chair said the COVID-19 pandemic may have created lost opportunities to recruit candidates with more long-term potential.

Mr Brady also said the number of women recommended for appointment to top roles had increased.

Dublin, 18 July 2022

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