Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants


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Senior Civil Servant Role Profile

The following information relates to the Civil Service. For managers in the commercial and non-commercial State sector please visit the relevant organisation's website on the links page.

The legal basis for the establishment of the Irish system of public administration is the Irish Constitution and the Ministers and Secretaries Act 1924 which:

  • Sets out the role and status of Ministers in relation to Departments and their responsibility to Dáil Éireann and
  • Provides for the role of the Secretary (now Secretary General) as head of a Department.


Roles and Responsibilities

Learn more about the specific duties and responsibilities of the following officials:


Role of the Secretary General

As part of the process of civil service modernisation the Public Service Management Act 1997 sets out the authority, responsibility and accountability of Secretaries General. Specific duties and responsibilities include:

  • Managing the Department
  • Implementing Government policies
  • Delivering outputs as determined with the Minister
  • Providing advice to the Minister and using resources appropriately
  • Assigning specific functions, for which the Secretary General is responsible, to officers or grades of officers within Departments.

The 1997 Act along with the Civil Service Regulation (Amendment) Act, 2005, gives the Secretary General responsibility for managing matters relating to appointments, performance, discipline and the dismissal of staff below the grade of Principal in the Civil Service.

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Role of Principal Officers

Principal Officers are key participants in the top management process who generally have responsibility for managing a major policy development, business planning or service delivery unit within their Department. Specific duties and responsibilities include:

  • Formulating and developing policies, business plans and expenditure budgets
  • Providing advice on emerging policy proposals to Assistant Secretaries, Secretaries General, Ministers and Government
  • Preparing legislation and providing expert advice to Ministers and members of the Oireachtas
  • Monitoring policy formulation, strategy, legislative and regulatory development of a range of state, semi-state, private sector and national organisations.
  • Representing the State on EU, Anglo-Irish and Cross-Border bodies and participating at meetings of international organisations where decisions reached may be of vital importance to Irish economic and social well-being

Role of Assistant Principals

Assistant Principals commonly head up a specific policy development, business planning, regulatory or service delivery unit within their Department. Specific duties and responsibilities include:

  • Participating in the development of national economic, social and business strategies and policies
  • Advising top management on the practical implications of key business decisions and proposals
  • Translating high-level decisions into practical programmes of action
  • Providing appellate functions where members of the public can make appeals against administrative decisions, such as in the various Ombudsman offices
  • Participating on national committees and representing the State on international organisations.

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© 2021 Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants

  • Fleming's Hall 12 Fleming's Place Dublin 4 
  • Phone: +353 1 6686077 / 6686064
  • Fax: +353 1 6686380
  • Email:


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Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants