Marc MacSharry stands over 'lazy public servants' comments

In a speech in the Dáil late on Tuesday night, he alleged that public sector productivity had fallen and this was "unacceptable".
Marc MacSharry stands over 'lazy public servants' comments
Marc MacSharry: "Such comments are unpopular but it is something that we need to address." Picture: Gareth Chaney Collins

A Fianna Fáil TD has said he stands by comments he made accusing public servants of laziness and using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lie on the couch and watch box sets.

Marc MacSharry said his remarks were intended to be "evocative" and public servants should be subjected to scrutiny.

In a speech in the Dáil late on Tuesday night, he alleged that public sector productivity had fallen and this was "unacceptable".

He praised staff working in the Department of Social Protection, who had "managed to get money to people pretty quickly" and said "they deserve much credit".

However, he pointed to "many elements" in the public service who are "using this situation as cover to lie on the couch and watch box sets, returning an odd call here and there and doing the maximum of the minimum to tick over during this period".

Speaking today, he said he stood by his comments.

"The box sets remark was evocative and it was a figure of speech to capture the point I was making in the context of a debate on social welfare," he told RTÉ radio.

"I also raised the fact that, across the public sector, Covid-19 is, in my experience, being used as cover for some - clearly it does not apply to all of them," Mr MacSharry told RTÉ radio.

"Of course such comments are unpopular but it is something that we need to address. 

"I have put my personal mobile number on social media if people want to contact me so I can clarify my position but I'm afraid it gives me no pleasure to do it and I must stand over my comments."

Mr MacSharry said he is aware that his remarks could prove costly.

"This will lose me votes, absolutely it will. 

"But if politics was just about populism I'd have joined Sinn Féin or gone independent years ago.

"Of course I'm not in the popularity business, I'm in the business of trying to provide representation.

My comments were reflective of the people who have come to my office and have been frustrated and is reflective of some aspects of the public service, as I have made clear.

Mr MacSharry said that, despite the Dáil rising on Thursday for a six-week break, he will continue to work from his constituency office in Sligo.

"The plenary sessions of the Dáil stop today but work does not stop and my offices will remain open and I remain contactable."

Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy distanced himself from his party colleague's comments in the Dáil.

He said most public servants exceeded the "call of duty" during the pandemic.

"Unfortunately, in some instances, some people probably did take the mick but overall my dealings with everybody led me to believe that the vast majority of them went over and even beyond the call of duty in their line of work," said Mr Troy.

Higher Education Minister Simon Harris also weighed in with praise for public servants.

"We have seen the very best of our public service throughout the last few months," he tweeted. 

"I saw firsthand how so many put their own lives on hold to help our country through the pandemic — across so many departments & agencies. 

"I am proud of them. At our best when we unite & pull together!"

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