Ireland is being run by senior civil servants who view themselves as untouchable and unaccountable, according to the Social Democrats.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, the party’s co-leader Catherine Murphy set out two “unacceptable” examples of civil servants failing to answer to the people.
She said the first was the refusal of the Department of Health Secretary General Robert Watt to come before the finance committee to answer questions on the €20m secondment of Tony Holohan to Trinity College.
The second was this week’s news that the HSE is blocking the Minister of State with Responsibility for Disabilities from holding one-on-one meetings with regional disability managers.
“The question I’m asking is who is running the country?” said Deputy Murphy.
“Those examples are just not acceptable in terms of the Oireachtas ability to scrutinise issues as they arise.
“It was perfectly legitimate for the finance committee to seek those meetings.
“Indeed, the likes of disability services, there are myriad examples of disability services being good in some locations, mediocre in others and awful in others. We have one health service executive and trying to find out why there is such a disparity is absolutely the right thing to do.
“The idea that was being blocked is just unacceptable.”
Asked whether there are senior civil servants who view themselves as ‘untouchable and unaccountable’, she said: “There may well be some of them that do and certainly those examples appear to be the case.”
She pointed to another recent example where the HSE CEO Paul Reid and Department of Health Secretary General Robert Watt informed the Health Committee we would be “getting a watered-down rollout of Sláintecare”.
“All of the parties have agreed that this is the approach that we are going to be taking in terms of reforming our health service,” she said.
“It’s not good enough to be told that we will get a version of it. It was an individually costed and well-thought-out approach to the future of healthcare and it really is not good enough that you then have the people who were tasked with actually delivering on it deciding they will give you a version of it.”
She said the Ministers and Secretaries Act needs to be updated to ensure civil servants take responsibility for the decisions they make.
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