Dáil Éireann - Volume 626 - 25 October, 2006

Written Answers. - Decentralisation Programme.

Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of principal and senior development specialists volunteering to decentralise with Irish Aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34717/06]

  Mr. C. Lenihan: Three Principal Development Specialists serve in Irish Aid headquarters in Dublin. None of the three has applied to decentralise to Limerick.

There are twelve Senior Development Specialists at Irish Aid headquarters. None of the twelve is applying to decentralise to Limerick, though two originally did so, but subsequently withdrew their applications.

Finally, there are nine Development Specialist posts at headquarters. At present five specialists [755] are scheduled to decentralise, four who commenced employment since the announcement of the decentralisation programme in December 2003, and one who applied via the Central Applications Facility.

There is an ongoing Labour Court case regarding the terms and conditions under which technical grades are employed in various areas of the public service, including the specialists employed by Irish Aid. Technical staff employed by Government Departments and Offices, including specialists and other fixed-term workers employed in Irish Aid, brought cases to the Rights Commissioner under the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003. The case, which involves complex legal issues, has been referred to the European Court of First Instance.

Some of the issues involved in the decentralisation of Irish Aid to Limerick have, therefore, a wider Civil Service dimension and must be resolved at the central level. Discussions are on-going with representatives of the specialists, with their union IMPACT, and with the Department of Finance about the issues involved.

Decentralisation is a Government decision and the Government is committed to moving ahead with its implementation. At present 47 posts in the Directorate are filled by officers who have signalled their intention to decentralise to Limerick. A further 17 officers who are serving elsewhere in the Department, mostly abroad, are also expected to decentralise to Limerick and will be taking up duty in Irish Aid in advance of the move. In addition, 21 officers from other Departments who have applied to decentralise to Limerick, most of whom are currently based in provincial locations, will transfer to the Department closer to the date of the move. Once these officers take up duty in Irish Aid, 85 posts (69% of the Directorate’s staff complement) will be in place.

A small number of staff, approximately 15 at entry grades, will be recruited for direct assignment to Limerick in the months preceding the move.

Almost all of the senior management team for Limerick will be in place by the end of this year. The Director General of Irish Aid has already indicated that he will decentralise to Limerick. There are now five Counsellors in place in the Directorate, who have volunteered to go to Limerick and a further three Counsellors will take up duty over the next two months. The changeover of the senior management team, just as in other grades, has been implemented in a planned and careful way so as to minimise disruption to the business of the Directorate.

While there are challenges ahead, management and staff are working effectively together to maintain the quality and integrity of the programme. It would be my hope that a greater [756] number of specialists will, in time, volunteer to decentralise to Limerick.