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Health and education cost reductions being considered, says Martin – The Irish Times


The Government is to look at reducing the cost of some public services in the budget next month, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin has said.

Speaking in New York on Sunday, where he is attending meetings at the United Nations, he suggested health and education as well as transport could be areas the Government could examine to see if prices could be reduced.

Separately, Mr Martin also described as “a dangerous precedent” the recent move by the Garda Representative Association to hold a vote of its members on whether they had confidence in the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris.

“I think in the context of industrial relations ballots and in the context of industrial relations issues, I’m not comfortable with the idea that we are moving into a space where there are ballots in relation to confidence in, for example, the Garda Commissioner, or indeed another organisation’s chief executive officer.”

“We have tried to trusted means of recruiting people to very significant and important positions in Irish life.”

“It is a dangerous enough precedent if we go down the road of saying that every now we can have votes of confidence in not just (the head of) the gardaí but all organisations.”

“We either have tried to trusted methods of recruitment and retention of personnel – with boards and the whole processes there – or we don’t.”

Mr Martin said there was a message coming from the vote of no confidence by members of the Garda Representative Association in the commissioner.

“We understand there are industrial relations issues. But they should be resolved through the industrial relations mechanisms”, he said.

The Tánaiste told reporters after a meeting at the United Nations on Sunday that the Government was “conscious that the cost of living is a huge issue and that there is a lot of pressure on a lot of households arising out of increased prices.”

He said there had been reductions in some areas over recent months and some prices were likely to come down again.

“But we do have to make interventions to alleviate pressures on the public. And we will look like we did before in terms of reducing the costs of public services. And we will look at some areas to see if we can do more there.”

Mr Martin said there were limits to what the Government could do overall and it was anxious not to exacerbate inflationary trends.

He suggested that health and education costs could be looked at by the Government.

“We did some work on travel over previous years, although there are capacity constraints around that. But I am not going to pre-empt the actual package as that will be a matter for the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Public Expenditure,” he said.

“If you look at what has happened over the last three years, it has been quite significant in terms of the reduction of costs of access to public services in the health area, in particular, with the abolition of in-patient hospital charges, the reductions in the drug payment scheme and (the introduction of) free contraception and much, much more.”

He said the scheme to provide free books for children in primary education had been of tremendous benefit for parents.

“I think many parents were surprised this year not to have the annual pressure of going to the school book shops to get books. I think that was quite a radical move and we will see what more we can do in that space.”

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