Irish Examiner view: Kerry Greenway budget fiasco a wild wasting of your money

Irish Examiner view: Kerry Greenway budget fiasco a wild wasting of your money
Mary O'Connor from Waterville gives her son-in-law, Junior Transport Minister Alan Kelly a friendly push off after he turned the first sod for Phase 1 of the South Kerry Greenway project at Mannix Point, Cahersiveen, Co Kerry. Picture: Don MacMonagle.

There are many groupings in this society but two are distinct.

One thinks the public service can do no wrong; the other thinks the public service can’t get anything right.

Though neither is right all or even most of the time, they stand at daggers drawn. Reform — remember benchmarking? — lies over a faraway horizon. 

The good the public sector facilitates is taken for granted. Failures are brushed under the carpet.

Even though there are far too many examples of underperformance, that is not the fury behind those critical of our public service.

To err is, after all, human. All of us fail but most face the consequences of failure. That reckoning, as our story today about the South Kerry Greenway shows, seems at best optional in the public service.

The absence of accountability is an obstacle to the respectful relationship a society should ideally have with its public service. This is more mutually damaging and undermining than is immediately obvious.

When the greenway was conceived the first funding application “made no provision” for buying land so the original estimate of €4.7m soared to €16.1m.

Concerns were expressed that Kerry County Council was paying far too much for “poor land”.

Various fees were particularly high in Kerry. The scheme, announced by then-junior minister Alan Kelly in 2014, is now expected to cost more than €20m.

State employees were not applying the kind of judgement they might apply to their own funds. What a circus, something’s gotta give.

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