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TD stands by remarks about public servants using pandemic to watch box sets

Fianna Fail’s Marc MacSharry accused public servants of laziness and said they should be subjected to scrutiny.

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Fianna Fail TD Marc MacSharry has said he stands by his remarks accusing public servants of using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to lie around watching box sets (Joe Giddens/PA)

Fianna Fail TD Marc MacSharry has said he stands by his remarks accusing public servants of using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to lie around watching box sets (Joe Giddens/PA)

Fianna Fail TD Marc MacSharry has said he stands by his remarks accusing public servants of using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to lie around watching box sets (Joe Giddens/PA)

A Fianna Fail 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 Dail 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”.

Of course such comments are unpopular but it is something that we need to addressMarc MacSharry

Speaking on Thursday, 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.

“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,” he told RTE 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 Fein 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 the public service – as I have made clear.”

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

“The plenary sessions of the Dail stops today but work does not stop and my offices will remain open and I remain contactable.”

Fianna Fail TD Robert Troy distanced himself from his party colleague’s comments in the Dail.

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

But he added: “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.”

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

He tweeted: “We have seen the very best of our public service throughout the last few months. 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!”

PA