David Doyle: retiring from post next year

The government has decided to open up top posts to the public in a bid to import private sector-style business into the civil service.

In a dramatic reversal of a long-held tradition, the government has decided that the most senior jobs of head of government departments, which come with salaries of around €230,000 a year, will be opened up to the general public.

"From now on all posts filled by the Top Level Appointments Commission (TLAC) will be open to public competition," a government spokeswoman said last week. TLAC appoints all secretary generals in the civil service with the notable exception of the secretary general in the departments of finance and the Taoiseach which, because of their importance, are government appointments.

The position of secretary general is the most senior position in the civil service and to date access to these plum promotional posts have been jealously guarded by the top echelons of the civil service.

The move follows the first ever public advertisement last month for the position of secretary-general of the Department of Community and Rural Gaeltacht Affairs which falls vacant next year following the retirement of the current head, Gerry Kearney.

A spokesman for the Public Appointments Service – the government's recruitment agency – said 12 people had applied for the post by the deadline of 20 November last. As a level III secretary-general post it came with a salary of €221,000.

There was a "good representation" from the private sector among the 12 applicants, the PAS spokesman said. While 12 applicants may seem a small number for such a well-paid, pensionable job, the CV requirements would be fairly onerous, and would only be met by a limited number of senior personnel in the country. While the department is currently headquartered in Mespil Road in Dublin 4, the successful applicant will have to be prepared to move to the department's new, decentralised headquarters in Charlestown, Co Mayo.

The next secretary-general post to fall vacant is in finance when, as expected, the current holder, David Doyle, retires next year. But as above this will remain a closed competition and ordinary members of the public need not apply. This is the most powerful position in the civil service. As a level I position, it will come with a (post budget cut) salary of €255,000 and is the most coveted position of all for the mandarins of Merrion Row.