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ADC 2003

(10 May 2003)

 

Address by AHCPS Chairperson, Pat Dowling

It is a particular pleasure for me to welcome you, our members, guests and our fraternal delegates from NI and England here this morning to our ADC which is being held in the year in which celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Association.

At times such as this, it is appropriate to remember and acknowledge the contribution of our founding members, including John Waldron and Eugene O'Connor from Revenue who I understand played a significant role in the foundation of the Association and who would, no doubt, be proud of the role which the Revenue Branch continues to play in the affairs of the Association. They would also be very happy with recent developments in the Revenue integration process which means that we are welcoming a large number of new colleagues into membership of this association. A membership which today stands at 2,750, an increase of over a 1,000, or over 60%, since 1993 and a far cry from the 200 who attended the first AGM in the old Royal Hibernian Hotel in December, 1943.

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Tribute to Seamus Molloy
While this is a time to remember with pride the achievements of all who laboured to ensure that the Association prospered, it is also a time tinged with particular sadness as has indeed been my final year in office due to the untimely death of our good friend and colleague, Seamus Molloy, who died so unexpectedly in autumn of last year. I was very honoured to be requested by the Department of Health to pay tribute to Seamus at a memorial service which they so kindly organised on 7th October last. His untimely death after a relatively short 23 years of public service brought home to us the importance of friendship, loyalty and might I say in a strange way, professionalism.

Seamus was the ultimate professional and exemplified this in my dealings with him as my vice-chairperson. Throughout the years, in which it was my pleasure to have known him, Seamus demonstrated his commitment to the highest ideals of public service and to the impartiality of the Civil Service. His contributions to the Association at Executive level were significant and always well thought out. He was a calming influence at all times and one who was anxious to ensure that above all else, our Association should seek to protect and ensure high standards in public office. At all times in our deliberations, both as an officer and as a member of the executive, he showed an openness to new ideas and a refreshing honesty in his dealings with others which, to me, marked him out as a special person. This was recognised by the membership of the Association in electing him as vice - chairperson. His wry sense of humour, of course, lightened many a difficult moment. And his compassionate style and interest in the welfare of others helped all of us to appreciate, as I said in my memorial address, that there is more to life than the narrow self - interest which should never be a feature of public service. Of course, great and all as our loss was, his untimely departure from this world was a greater tragedy for his dear wife, Bernadette, and her young daughters, to all of whom he was extremely devoted. I would ask you join with me for one minute in silent tribute to Seamus and to all our deceased members.

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Developments in 2002/3
The General Secretary in his address will address in detail a number of the issues which have arisen during the year. As the outgoing chairperson, I would like to comment on a number of these issues.

As outlined in the Annual Report, the past year, has seen significant developments for this Association's membership notably in the context of:

The Benchmarking report which recommended increases of 11.7% for Principals; 13.8% for Assistant Principals and 10.4% and 9.8% for Prison Governors (1) and Prison Governors(2) respectively;

Sustaining Progress negotiations which were central to the implementation to the implementation of the Benchmarking findings; ·
The Modernisation Agenda and the proposals for a Senior Executive Service; and · Promotion arrangements

The outcome to the benchmarking process was relatively successful insofar as pay is concerned and justified the major commitment given to our preparations for the process. While the pay level was within acceptable range, a number of issues have arisen in the course of the debate and in the course of negotiations in relation to Sustaining Progress which have the potential to create difficulties for the Association, unless carefully managed. These include the issue of staffing levels in the civil and public service, the application of the Working Time Act and the conditions attaching to the benchmarking awards, in particular the "hiring and firing" agenda. The General Secretary will refer to these in more detail later. Suffice it for me to say that the hiring and firing agenda could serve to undermine the AP grade as a senior management grade. This, at a time when there is increasing use of the informal Director post within Departments without any formal negotiations with this Union as to its place in the hierarchical structure.

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Valuing the Civil and Public Service
Last year, I raised the issue of the undervaluing of the civil and public service and I highlighted the risk which would be involved in a headlong emulation of the developing UK model which clearly risks the fragmentation if not the destruction of the Civil Service as we know it.

The Minister for Finance in his budget speech for 2003 announced (and I quote)"that as a consequence of the increase in public services numbers over the past five years, the Government had decided that the numbers employed across all sectors of the public service were to be capped at the present authorised levels with immediate effect" and that" in addition, the Government had decided that there would be a reduction of 5,000 in these numbers over the next three years". We believe this could involve a reduction of between 1,000 and 1,500 in the Civil Service. One has to ask the question, how does this reconcile with the enhancement of public services to which the Government is also committed. Government has to decide on priorities, that is its entitlement as the elected Government. Equally, it has to recognise that it can't expect to have the quality of public services which it rightly seeks, without the provision of adequate resources in pursuit of that objective.

Presidency
This brings me to the upcoming Irish Presidency which as demonstrated by the number of motions before Conference is a matter of major concern to a very large number of our membership who will be at the coalface in ensuring a successful Presidency We will be assuming the Presidency at another crucial moment in the history of the European Union. 2004 will see the single largest expansion of the Union to 25 members at a time when the the outcome of the Giscard d'Estaing Convention will have passed on to the proposed IGC to agree a new Treaty.

A successfully managed Presidency is vital to the maintenance of Ireland's standing in the EU. The scale of the challenge facing our administration and particularly our members can be gleaned from the fact that between 1997 and 2001 the number of meetings at EU level increased from 3,000 to 4,500.

We will give the highest priority as in the past to ensuring a successful outcome through our professional expertise and the commitment and flexibility with which we have always approached our responsibilities. This has however to be reciprocated by the Official Side - a reciprocation which has been signally absent to - date in relation to the allocation of staffing and associated costs to other than a few Departments. I am confident that the Government will ensure that all necessary and appropriate resources are made available.

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Decentralisation

Before concluding I would like to refer briefly to the issue of decentralisation, another policy priority for the Government. . Whilst decentralisation can be a considerable bonus to the host towns, a fundamental question remains as to its long-term efficiency in terms of ensuring quality public services. One certainly can raise a significant question as to extent of which the decentralisation is counterproductive to the long-term career prospects of our members when taken together with the proposals in the past year for a Senior Executive Service which would be the basis on which all appointments to Assistant Secretaries would be made in the future. If current senior and top management arrangements are maintained in the proposed new round of decentralisations, then the career prospects for our are members could be significantly diminished, not least through the disincentive cost of accommodation in Dublin. Any future proposals from Government for decentralisation has to take account of its implications for the senior management of the Civil Service.

Head Office and Acknowledgements
In conclusion , I want to mention one of the challenges facing Sean McDonald as my successor. This is the long running issue of the suitability of the existing HQ accommodation at Warner's Lane. The incoming executive will I am confident address this matter as a priority given the unsuitability of the present accommodation.

Last but by no means least I want to thank everybody with whom I have had the pleasure of serving the Association for their friendship and support and especially all the members of the Executive since 1996. I would also want acknowledge the sterling work of all our members at all levels of the organisation without whom we could not function. I would like to pay a particular tribute to Sean O'Riordan who has served us so well as General Secretary since 1986. Sean and his colleagues, Phyllis, until she left in 2002, Dave, Jackie, Gillian and more recently, John Kelleher, have all contributed to ensure that my active involvement in the executive as a member, Vice- Chairperson and most recently as Chairperson has been rendered easier and might I say enjoyable. To them, to Tom Quigley and Jimmy Murphy I say sincere thank you for your assistance and friendship which I am sure Sean McDonald will also welcome.

 

Address by Sean O Riordain

Introduction
I would like to begin by formally associating myself and the people who work with me at Head Office with the tribute paid by our Chairperson Pat Dowling to Seamus Molloy. Seamus made a very positive contribution to the public service and to the trade union movement. His vision, his keen intellect, his determination and his distinct wit and humour enriched our Association. His untimely death was a tragedy for his immediate family and he is also deeply missed by his friends and colleagues at all levels in the Association.

The prime concern of the Association over the past year, as you will see from the Annual Report, was with the core issues of pay and benchmarking. There has been good news and bad news. The good news relates to the conclusion of the new Social Partnership Agreement "Sustaining Progress" and the implementation of benchmarking. The bad news relates to An Post and I will begin by talking about this.

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An Post
An Post is in serious difficulties, with very substantial losses forecast. And yet this comes as absolutely no surprise having watched in particular the extent to which a top-heavy top management of the Company has carefully and methodically alienated the goodwill of the majority of the management grades in the company in recent years.

The reality is that only the Communication Workers Union is taken seriously by the Company with the three headquarters unions consulted as an afterthought. The most recent vivid example of that was in the restructuring of the SDS where the broad shape of change was addressed in long negotiations with the CWU and the headquarters unions were only invited to discussions after decisions had already been taken by the Board.

We published an Attitudinal Survey at Conference last year which showed that only 5% of managers believe that top management in An Post display a genuine concern for staff and that, equally, only 5% believe that there are general feelings of trust between unions and management in An Post. We believe that if we were to repeat the survey this year the situation would be even worse. The promised review of pay and grading for our grades has hardly been started, not alone completed. As matters stand, the priority areas of the National Lottery Company and what is known as "Direct Reports" in An Post have not been effectively addressed and the general approach being adopted by some elements of top management of the Company is aimed at undermining collective bargaining at the levels represented by the Association.

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There are, however, very good people at all levels in An Post. There is still an extraordinary commitment to An Post as an organisation and I know that there is an understanding and willingness, certainly at the levels represented by the Association, to address change constructively provided that our members are dealt with fairly in pay terms in comparison with others.

There will, as you probably know, be a change in Chief Executive in An Post shortly. Our Association hopes that we can work with the new top management in a manner which addresses the fundamental changes which need to take place but also in a manner which respects the legitimate interests of our members. The idea of An Post management having had to be dragged screaming and kicking to the Labour Court to uphold a freely entered into agreement is a model which I don't think An Post should ever repeat. I don't want to be in a situation again where, metaphorically speaking, I have to count my fingers after shaking hands on a deal in An Post. There is a need for a new beginning and we will play our part in that provided we are treated fairly. At the core of the matter is trust and respect.

Sustaining Progress Agreement
Our principle concern when we met here last year was, firstly, that the benchmarking awards would be favourable. Secondly, that they would be implemented over a reasonable time frame. Thirdly, that the quid pro quo in terms of modernisation would not be unreasonable and, finally, that we would not fall further behind in comparison with private sector pay.

I believe that these objectives have largely been met by the new Social Partnership Agreement, Sustaining Progress and that this is reflected in the 94% ballot of members in favour. Although the awards were not as big as we would have hoped for, bearing in mind that management remuneration in the private sector had gone way ahead, our awards are among the highest in the civil service and, in the current economic climate, full implementation by June 2005 is not unreasonable. And, while we have a six month pay pause under the general pay provisions of the new agreement, we will, by the end of the 18 month period have achieved the same 7% increase in what I might describe as the terminal pay of all grades by comparison with the private sector.

But pay is never settled and it is the glue that holds partnership together. A lot done. More to do. There are to be discussions about Benchmarking Mark II during the course of this agreement and, as I have said repeatedly before, we either end up at a regular arbitration-benchmarking process to determine public sector pay or it is determined on the street by the power groups. In a situation where top public servants have their pay reviewed every four years a similar arrangement should apply for the rest of the public service.

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Public Service Modernisation
The new agreement, as signalled in the PPF, very clearly links both the payment of the 75% outstanding benchmarking award and the general round increase to modernisation of the public sector and delivery of change will be verified by Performance Verification Groups representative of management, unions, experts and, where appropriate, consumers. On this occasion the Government and the Department of Finance want to be absolutely sure that they get value for money!

The "bread and butter" issues of modernisation do not provide insuperable difficulties for the Association. Indeed, at benchmarking, the Department of Finance fully accepted that cooperation with flexibility and change was already being delivered by this Association. We do need, however, to monitor carefully the specialist open recruitment and we must be fully involved in the enhanced competitive promotion processes in Departments. We will shortly be negotiating an inter-departmental scheme of reciprocal cross-stream promotion with the Department of Finance which will come into operation from 1st January 2005 but, as you know, we had already agreed this in principle under the PCW with the intention of a scheme being brought into operation from September, 1999. In the event, while we had agreed a scheme with the Department of Finance the other principle party, IMPACT, were unable to sign up. Equally, the guarantees of fully exhausting the Conciliation and Arbitration machinery before taking strike action or the need to agree a Code of Essential Services should not create difficulties for the Association.

The Hiring and Firing Agenda
We did, however, have difficulties during the negotiations of the Sustaining Progress Agreement with what I might term the hiring and firing agenda. The difficulties are in relation to proposals to fundamentally change the 1956 Civil Service Commission and Civil Service Regulation Acts.

You will recall that Conference last year unanimously confirmed our strongly held view that public confidence in the integrity and impartially of appointments to the civil service is best maintained through direct recruitment of civil servants by the Civil Service Commission and expressing opposition to the legislative measures proposed by Government to license Departments and private sector agencies to recruit to the civil service.

This view was unanimously held by all the civil service unions at the time and expressed forcibly to the Department of Finance at meetings of the Civil Service General Council. The Sustaining Progress Agreement, however, still provides for the establishment of Public Service Appointments Commissioners who will licence departments to directly recruit into the civil service in addition to standard recruitment through the Public Service Appointments Commission which will replace the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commission. The proposal to licence private sector agencies to recruit has been dropped.

The view expressed by this Association in the negotiations was that we remained firmly of the view that public confidence would best be maintained through continuation of the recruitment only by the Civil Service Commission.

On the firing side, the intention at below Principal level is, by law, to entirely remove from the responsibility of either Government or Ministers all matters of appointment, promotion, discipline and dismissal. These functions will now be exercised by the Secretaries General in Departments. Even though Assistant Principals are senior managers in the civil service, and will attend with Ministers or represent the State internationally, what might happen to them in career terms will now by law be removed from Government or Ministers

The Sustaining Progress Agreement contains a commitment to consult with the civil service unions in relation to the new legislation, but I should say at this stage that we have preliminary Senior Counsel Opinion to the effect that the proposed amendment is unconstitutional so far as it relates to civil servants of the Government at Assistant Principal level. The argument is that the exercise of these powers constitutes part of the Executive Authority of the State which must under the Constitution be exercised by or on behalf of Government. We will no doubt pursue this further when we see the final shape of legislation proposed, but it is an important matter which fundamentally touches on the relationship of senior civil servants to Government. We knew where we stood under the old regime. But under this new modern dispensation where will future loyalty lie - to the Government or to the Secretary General who will hire and fire you?

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Partnership
The Association as you know is very concerned about partnership and we have recently set up an AHCPS Partnership Network comprising our representatives both in the public service and in the State enterprises where we have representation. The Network is under the Chairmanship of a member of the Executive Committee, Eddie Quinn and John Kelleher, Assistant General Secretary acts as Secretary to the Network. I believe the network will have a positive input in the emerging partnership agenda.

There is a need for a central partnership approach to the determination of the vision for the future in the civil service. This is in fact highlighted in the formal review of partnership in the civil service which was published last year and we will be pursuing this matter actively at General Council.

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EU Presidency
One of the major issues facing the civil service in the period ahead is the EU presidency approaching enlargement. The Chairperson Pat Dowling has spoken in detail about this confirming that Government needs to ensure that the Presidency is properly resourced and that our people are properly remunerated. This is absolutely vital and must be a priority in the period immediately ahead. We are looking for adequate resources, an increase in the Chairman and Delegates Allowances, an agreed regime of remuneration for substantial after hour and late night work and clarification in relation to the application of the Working Time Act to our members. Indeed, the EU Presidency work will again bring the whole issue of the destructive long hours culture in the service back into the frame.

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Revenue Integration
The most important branch development during the year was of course the integration of the taxes stream down to Inspector of Taxes level with the general service streams in the Office of the Revenue Commissioners. This, may potentially mean that about 300 former Senior Inspectors and Higher Inspector of Taxes are expected to join our ranks at Principal and Assistant Principal levels. I must say that we have very good relations with the Officers of the former Association of Inspector of Taxes and I want to assure them and our prospective new members that they will be welcome in the Association and we will do everything possible centrally and locally to protect and advance their interests. The combined Revenue branch possibly with over 500 members will then be the biggest branch in the Association and will need special care and attention. Officers of the former Association of Inspectors of Taxes are our guests at the Conference Dinner tonight and I know that they will be very welcome.

State Enterprises
Turning now to the State enterprises where we have representation. I have already spoken about An Post but, as you know, we also have representation in Eircom, in FAS and in the Irish Aviation Authority.

There are, in Eircom, continuing problems for our members in terms of personalised contracts, people having to apply for their own jobs and reductions in numbers, not to mention the fact that the Company are apparently selling off buildings to reduce their borrowings.

In the Irish Aviation Authority matters are relatively quite with just ordinary ongoing industrial relations negotiations. In FAS, however, there is a continuing problem in relation to superannuation for former civil servants on secondment to the Company. The Labour Court has recommended that this matter be considered by the Joint Working Party on the Report of the Commission on Public Service Pensions. This is recognised to be an unfair anomaly, but at present the Official Side is maintaining intransigent opposition.

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Conclusion
It has been an extremely busy year for the Association and I would like to conclude by conveying my personal thanks and appreciation firstly to the people I work with. Gillian Murray our Receptionist/Typist and Jacqueline Lacey, our Executive Assistant also have a very important role in the organisation of the Annual Delegate Conference here today for which we are very grateful. I would also like to thank John Kelleher, Assistant General Secretary who has been with us only a year but has been great assistance particularly in relation to the work in An Post, in Partnership and Equality issues which he is now very fully involved in. I also want to thank Dave Thomas, our Deputy General Secretary who as always makes a unique contribution to the work of the Association.

Our two Vice Presidents, Tom Quigley and Jimmy Murphy give us great help as ever for which we thank them. They want me to join them as soon as I can in the Retired Public Servants Association, but I need a few more years to learn about pensions.

I want to thank The Executive for their help and support and wish those members who are not standing again well in the future. Finally I want to thank Pat Dowling for his great contribution over many years as a member of the Executive, as Vice Chairperson and as Chairperson of the Association. I also want to thank him for his counsel and his friendship and wish him well.

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Address by Mr David Begg, General Secretary Irish Congress of Trade Unions

Well Chairman, dear friends, thank you very much for your introduction and you're your invitation to be here this morning. It is great pleasure for me to be here and, first of all, I want to bring you the warmest greetings of Congress on this important occasion for your union and to wish you every success in the work that you are doing and long may it continue for the future. It is a pleasure for me personally to see quite a number of old friends. I did have the privilege over many years of attending your Annual Dinner when I was working for the CWU and we were part of the same Staff Panel and I suppose it is a little disconcerting to see from your agenda that some of the old difficulties in the Post Office are still present. It's like what Churchill said of the North. The dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone emerging from the cataclysm, the integrity of their quarrel continues undiluted so it seems.

I notice also in the audience a number of people to whom I am a suppliant every day of the week, going and presenting cases for this that or other change of economic policy, so I am humbled by this very powerful audience that I am to address this morning.

As you know Ireland will assume the Presidency of the European Union again next year. It will happen at a time of unprecedented change. The union will be enlarged from 15 to 25 members, there will be elections to the European Parliament, there will be a new Commission and there will be an Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC) to decide what to do about the report of the Convention on the Future of Europe now deliberating under the Chairmanship of Mr Valéry Giscard D'Estaing

It is a challenging time for Ireland to be in pole position because, for reasons I will go into later, the outcome of this process will, I think, shape the world of the 21st Century.

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Today I want to focus the concept of maintaining a public realm, a concept which has been under attack for many years now and which crucially depends on how these coming events pan out.

For the last three days I have been at the United Nations in New York as part of a mission from the Advisory Board for Ireland Aid (ABIA). One of the agencies of the UN which we had discussions with was the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). As the name suggests, UNDP, is charged with the tasks of promoting policies in the developing world aimed at ending poverty and destitution. Each year in July it publishes its "Human Development Report" which is, in effect, an audit on the state of our planet.

Last year the theme of the report was good governance. It rightly made the point that, if a country has weak or bad governance structures, it can make little progress in development. Indeed it is a constant worry for donor governments to ensure that monies allocated for budget support are not wasted through corruption. The absence of a strong institutional framework in many developing countries is without doubt the biggest impediment to progress. It is a sad fact, of course, that policies pursued by the IMF and the World Bank over the last 15 years have had an emphasis on reducing government structures through privatisation programmes as part of the structural adjustment needed to avail of debt relief. The result is that many developing countries are now little more than shell states. As a policy it was an unmitigated disaster.

Contrast that with our own experience. When the social partnership experiment began in 1987 Ireland had an average GDP per capita which was 60 per cent of the EU has a whole. Today it is 122 per cent. Social Partnership was one element in this success story. Another important element was the 8 billion in cohesion funds, and more particularly how we used them. The cohesion funding achieved its purpose because Ireland has a strong institutional framework. In other words it has an excellent public service.

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The Peruvian Economist, Hernando de Soto, has written a book called "the Mystery of Capital" in which he explores why, after the collapse of communism, capitalism and globalisation has failed to lift the people of the developing world out of destitution. His thesis is simple; capitalism cannot work without capital and poor people have no capital. The reason they have no capital is that developing countries do not have the framework of laws and governance to authentic ownership or to police contracts. The point is that there must be a public realm to create the conditions in which private economic activity can take place. As a I have already suggested, the IMF and World Bank completely misjudged this in the policies follow for the last ten years of the 20th Century. These institutions are dominated by the United States. This is why the future direction of Europe is so important as a counterbalance to the US.

The Lisbon Summit in Spring 2000 set out the agenda to make the European Union 'the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustaining economic growth with more and better jobs and social cohesion', including an explicit commitment to full employment. This broad based strategy, known as the Open Method of Co-ordination (OMC), is underpinned institutionally by an ongoing assessment process focussed on the annual spring summits, involving an extensive use of benchmarks, quantitative targets and peer review. The Lisbon Strategy envisages an increase in the overall employment rate to 70% and the female employment rate to 60 per cent by 2010. It has an annual growth target of 3 per cent.

The Lisbon Strategy, on the face of it, appears to represent a conscious choice to eschew the free market economic model generally associated with the Anglo-American countries. However, there is some ambivalence on this point because a number of European countries - Italy, Denmark, Spain and the UK - strongly advocate labour market and social security reform. In reality these are euphemisms for making it easier to sack people and reduce pension entitlements. This has less immediate implications for Ireland because we have one of the most deregulated labour markets in Europe but it clearly has a bearing on the type of Social Europe we aspire to.

Congress, in common with the European Trade Union Confederation, is strongly in favour of protecting the concept of a European Social Market Economy.

European regulation, taxation, public provision and welfare are often attacked by proponents of the American model for their alleged attendant economic ill-effects - but this criticism does not stand up to scrutiny. The ill-effects are exaggerated, sometimes non-existent; but rarely if ever acknowledged are the benefits conferred by high-quality universal education and health care, and guarantee of income for the marginalised and weak. At core, the American criticism is based on a moral stance: the idea of the social contact that lies behind these structures offends American conservatism's belief in individualism, liberty and self-reliance.

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And here lies the rub. European civilisation is underpinned by values Europe's leaders could not give up even if they wanted to; for their roots lie deep and define what it means to be a European. American conservatism, having wrought contemptible damage on its own society, cannot be allowed to repeat the carnage in Europe. The European belief that the wealthy and propertied have reciprocal obligations to the society of which they are part and which cannot be discharged by charity alone goes back to early Christendom - as does the associated notion that a settled people must form a social contract to entrench their association.

This in turn demands a public realm that permits the articulation and expression of what we hold in common. It is these propositions that, when turned into structures and policies, produce the high-quality social outcomes that distinguish Europe from the US. The conservative American attack on these values, poorly challenged by liberals in the US, must be better resisted in Europe. We must turn back the tide in the name of the good society and common humanities.

Moreover, globalisation is not entirely a politically neutral force springing from new developments in information technology and the anonymous forces of trade and financial liberalisation, as it is sometimes portrayed.

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Globalisation has been politically shaped by the US deploying three simple guiding principles in an ad hoc but increasingly determined fashion. First, the US looks to exercise its power unilaterally rather than have its autonomy constrained by international alliances and treaty obligations. Second, it focuses aggressively and unilaterally on promoting the interests of those sectors and companies that plainly benefit, because of their ascendant market position or technological lead, from globalisation - notably financial services, ICT and, laterally, those with leadership in intellectual property. Third, it instinctively looks to market solutions and remedies, both as a matter of intellectual and ideological conviction and because over a period these render it more likely that American interests will prevail. The bigger and more powerful tend to succeed in "free", unregulated markets.

For our part we aspire to the type of world in which workers' rights are supported and entrenched. Risk and rewards are not allocated by chance and market forces; rather their fine balance is settled by an activist state, expressing and enforcing the choices made by the community.

If we care about the public realm, equality and the importance of the social contract; if we wish to promote fairness and equality of opportunity; if we believe that these values should underpin the global order, then US conservatism needs to be challenged and the country needs to be repersuaded that even America depends on others for some things and that forms of multilateral co-operation are in its interests. There is only one source of countervailing power and values: Europe.

This is why the outcome of the Convention of the Future of Europe is so vitally important. Europe constitutes the only alternative pole of Western global influence. It is the only entity capable of designing the global governance architecture capable of taming globalisation. It has, in the form of the social market economy, the only civilised system in which all citizens, regardless of the job they do, can obtain the necessities for decent living.

This is not the time to abandon the European Social Model. We face unprecedented challenges as European citizens to our quality of life arising from:
- Immigration and the potential for racism; - Unemployment and the quality of jobs; - The provision of an infrastructure of caring to accommodate increased female participation in the labour force and the needs of a growing community of older people; - Growing inequality in society; - The undermining of services of general interest by privatisation and the application of inappropriate regulatory policies.

The preservation of the European Social Model does not mean no change. To deal with the challenges I have just outlined almost by definition requires change. What we must do, however, is to retain the essential values upon which the post-war settlement was constructed and which differentiates us from the United States.

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Ever since the Second World War the United States has promoted the idea of an "Ever Closer Union" in Europe. Initially this had to do with preventing the continent from falling in to a disastrous conflict again and later it was motivated by Cold War considerations. But now a change seems discernible. The Bush administration has tried to divide Europe in pursuit of its war objectives. Perhaps even the possibility of Europe being an alternative repository of values and power is recognised.



Ireland is ambivalent on these questions. We are unsure whether we want to be an outpost of the US in Europe or a regional European economy. It is the "Boston versus Berlin argument".



I am certain myself that we are engaged in a great struggle between neo-liberalism and social democracy. The outcome will determine the type of society we will have. It will determine the parameters of the public realm in particular.



I cannot see that the people who work in the public sector can be indifferent to this. The only organisations unequivocally committed to supporting the public sector are the trade unions. The logic of this is that all public sector workers, regardless of grade, should join and support the union for their grade.



Finally I would say that the best antidote to the neo-liberal campaign against the public realm is to ensure that public services are provided efficiently, effectively, reliably and courteously. At the end of the day public opinion will be the arbitrator of the parameters for the public realm. This is something which unions would do well to keep in mind and to try to ensure that the pursuit of sectional or local objectives does no violence to this end.



Lastly, Chairman in thanking you for your invitation, if I may, I would like to pay tribute to the contribution which your union makes to the work of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and in particular, the contribution of your esteemed General Secretary, Sean Ó Riordáin with whom I have had the privilege of being able to call a friend I think for quite a number of years. He is a person who is widely respected within the trade union movement and, if I may be permitted to say so, has done a very good job representing your particular interests and I hope he will continue to do so for many years to come.



Thank you for inviting me.



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