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The legal basis for the present system of central public administration is contained in the Ministers and Secretaries Act of 1924 and its eleven subsequent amendments. The Act provides for a statutory classification of the functions of Government under the various Departments and Offices of State. There are sixteen Government Departments for which fifteen Ministers of Government, assisted by seventeen Ministers of State, have responsibility in all matters. The day-to-day management and administration of a Department’s functions is entrusted to the Secretary of the Department who is a permanent civil servant, appointed by the Government.
The civil service is independent in the performance of its duties and has no involvement in party politics. Party political activity is strictly forbidden for all middle and high-ranking civil servants.Recruitment to the civil service is by open public competition administered by the independent Civil Service Commission. Staff are recruited at a number of different grades up to middle management level.
The civil service comprises a number of grade categories with different functions. These functions cover, broadly, four categories of duties: the administrative grades have responsibility for policy formulation; the professional grades provide specialist knowledge and skills within the civil service; the executive grades are involved in the implementation of policy decisions; the clerical grades are responsible for general duties. There are some 30,000 people employed in the civil service.
Teachers and members of An Garda Síochána (police force) and staff of local authorities and of the health services belong to the wider public service, rather than the civil service. Their salaries are also, however, paid from central Government funds, through the Departments of Education, Justice, Environment, Health, and Defence respectively.
Departments of State
The Department of An Taoiseach provides the secretariat to the Government and assists the Taoiseach in the carrying out of his constitutional and legal functions. The Department has responsibility for the National Economic and Social Council, the Government Information Services and the Central Statistics Office. It has responsibility in regard to the administration of all public services which do not fall within the remit of another Government Department while also being charged with the custody of public archives and state papers.
The Department of Finance has responsibility for the administration and guardianship of the public finances of the State. It is concerned with the raising and the provision of money for State purposes, the control of public expenditure, and social and economic planning. It is responsible for the coordination and the improvement of personnel and management functions in the public service. It is also responsible for other central Government services such as the Office of the Revenue Commissioners and the Office of Public Works.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry is concerned with all aspects of the agricultural, food and forestry industries. It operates a nationwide network of inspectors, research facilities and disease eradication schemes. The Department is concerned with the foundation and the operation of land policy and it also deals with the administration and implementation of European Union agricultural policies.
The Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht has responsibility for the formulation of policy relating to arts, culture and the national heritage as well as the promotion of the Irish language and of Irish-speaking regions.
The Department of Defence is responsible for the external security of the State. This involves the administration, recruitment, regulation and organisation of the army including the air corps, the naval service, as well as civil defence.
The Department of Education administers, oversees and finances primary, secondary and third-level education services and operates the State examination system for schools. The Department also has responsibility for the formulation of policy with regard to sport and recreation.The Department of Enterprise and Employment is responsible for policy formulation in the areas of industrial development, science and technology, commerce, employment and consumer protection. It also has responsibility for manpower policy which involves the provision of vocational training and work experience programmes.
The Department of the Environment is responsible for the coordination of local government administration in the areas of housing, water, sanitation, fire services and planning.The Department of Equality and Law Reform is charged with promoting equality of opportunity within the State and has responsibility for instituting law reform measures, particularly in the areas of equality and family law.
The Department of Foreign Affairs’ primary function is to advise the Government on Ireland’s foreign relations and to act as the channel of official communication with foreign Governments and official organisations. The Department is responsible for diplomatic representation abroad and for the implementation of Ireland’s aid programme for developing countries.
The Department of Health has responsibility for the services provided by the regional health authorities. It also deals with areas outside the remit of the health authorities, e.g. voluntary hospitals. It reviews existing services and initiates proposals for new services.
The Department of Justice has responsibility for the internal security of the State. It has responsibility for the courts, the prison service and An Garda Síochána (police force).The Department of the Marine is responsible for policy issues in relation to the fishing and marine related industries, shipping, marine research and technology, aquaculture, marine safety and general marine conservation policy.
The Department of Social Welfare is charged with the administration of the social insurance and the social assistance schemes within the State social security system.The Department of Tourism and Trade has responsibility for the formulation of policies in relation to tourism and trade matters.
The Department of Transport, Energy and Communications is charged with policy formulation in the areas of aviation, rail and road transport, energy, petroleum and minerals exploration, as well as postal, radio and telecommunications policies.
Many Departments also have responsibility for State-sponsored companies entrusted with the implementation of policy. There are also a number of other organisations within the civil service:
The Office of the Revenue Commissioners is responsible for the administration, enforcement and collection of taxes and duties. The Office of Public Works provides accommodation for Government Departments and offices, police stations, post offices and primary schools; it undertakes civil engineering projects on behalf of the State as well as managing national monuments and public parks.
Other State services include the Government Supplies Agency, the Central Statistics Office, the Valuation and Ordnance Survey Office, the State Laboratory, the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Office of the Attorney General and the Government Information Services.