it is unjustifiable that senior and junior government ministers employ over 300 public servants to assist them in their Dáil and constituency offices at a cost of over €16m a year to the taxpayer (News, 3 January). The very existence of junior ministers is an admission that the highly paid government minister is not able to do the job for which s/he has been appointed and has to 'farm out' the work of the department to highly paid junior ministers.
Both senior and junior ministers can and should draw on the expertise of their senior civil servants in formulating policy. Yet many ministers employ at least one and, in the case of Mary Coughlan, two "special advisers" and ancillary staff, all at taxpayers' expense, to advise them. It is noteworthy that the departments with the biggest staff (Coughlan and her junior ministers have 47 assistants; Harney and four junior ministers in health have 40) are also the ones that come in for most criticism for underperformance. If the government is serious about saving money it should begin at the top.
Axing junior ministers and ancillary staff would represent real savings. Every minister and TD's reputation should rest on their performance on the national stage not at constituency level. It is a disgrace that taxpayers fund constituency office staff whose sole raison d'etre is to ensure their boss is re-elected.
These two changes alone would be revolutionary. They would mean ministers would be chosen for their calibre and, if constituency expenses had to be borne by the representative and not the taxpayer, maybe the calibre of those seeking election might improve also and we would all benefit.
Castleknock, Dublin 15