€72K a year to do nothing, Eileen's word perfect delivery is a treasure
Eileen Dunne is a national treasure.
There's something genuine, believable and direct about the way she delivers the news that sets her apart from the others. Call it a gravitas, a confidence, or a staying power bordering on permanence for our fickle generation.
Call it what you will, but there is something unflappably fantastic about her. Take a news item on Thursday night for instance. Delivered in her usual fulsome manner, but without a hint of over inflection, she announced that a staff member at the Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT), who is on €72,000 per year, has no work to do. The sentence was jaw dropping, hilarious, absurd, while at the same time disturbing.
A look bordering on outrage washed across Eileen's face, one she could not disguise, despite her best efforts.
And there it was in a nano second. The reason she is among the greats of news reading.
The story was a knockout, straight out of officialdom lore. I've always had a suspicion that if you look hard enough you will find people in the public service, (the absolute minority I might add), who get away with doing feck all.
Ever since I was a child my uncle advised me to get into the public service. 'Good money, handy work, you can't get fired unless you kill someone,' he would say. This was coming from a self employed man who worked seven days a week.
I didn't listen.
I have done work schemes in the past, during summer breaks in between college terms, however, where I've done little more than stir a teabag all summer in a metal changing room on a sodden soccer pitch, talking about the rain and struggling to make conversation with CE workers, who were similarly idle. I've done security work in a room complete with a sleeping bag. Sometimes I was surprised to find that I was paid for this, but then I was so exhausted from the night shift I hardly even noticed.
In this case, the report concerned the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) which heard that some staff at LIT are earning salaries of up to €72,000, but they have no work to do. The Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy told committee members staff who earn a combined total of €216,000 a year technically have nothing to do. The employees were transferred to LIT after it merged with a rural business college in Co Tipperary in 2011. You can just see it. 'Hi, we're the new lads from Tipperary.'
'Oh really. We're the guys from Limerick. Feck off and let us do our jobs.'
To save embarrassment and avoid a conflict, nothing was done about the situation, and as a result there was no official work assigned to staff. That's not to say they aren't working, but the optics aren't good.
McCarthy said these people are above 'an approved level of staffing', adding: 'In this case, they actually have no work.' To which independent TD Shane Ross asked: 'They're doing nothing?!'
McCarthy then said: 'Well they're obviously doing something but they have no formal assignment in the institute.'
TD Patrick O'Donovan probed further, asking: 'So people have had no jobs since 2011 at €72,000 a year and no one has done anything about it?' Before Ross added: 'That's absolutely crackers isn't it? I mean it's just bananas.'
'It does happen where organisations are amalgamated that people become surplus to requirements,' McCarthy stated.
Should have listened to my uncle!