Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Senior Public Service? 


The Senior Public Service (SPS) comprises all serving and newly appointed staff at Secretary General, Deputy Secretary, Assistant Secretary and Director (MAC members with direct PO reports) levels as well as equivalent Departmental and professional grades. All those appointed at these grades in the Civil Service automatically become members of the SPS.

The SPS Secretariat is based in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

How many members does the SPS have?


There are currently 263 members of the SPS.

SPS Membership Breakdown

What are the aims of the SPS?


The aim of the SPS is to strengthen public service management and leadership across the Civil Service, and ultimately the Public Service.

This will be achieved through provision of training and development opportunities for SPS members and removal of barriers to mobility across the public service in line with the commitments contained in the current Programme for Government. Over time, this will facilitate more effective redeployment of senior managers in pursuit of the priority tasks identified by Government. This will support the development of the collaborative culture needed to tackle the biggest cross-cutting social and economic challenges.

What is the governance structure of the SPS?


The SPS is overseen by the SPS Management Committee, comprising six Secretaries General and chaired by the Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

The SPS Secretariat within the Department supports the SPS Management Committee and the drawing up and implementation of SPS initiatives.

The SPS Secretariat also acts as Secretariat to the Executive Committee of the Assistant Secretary Network (ASN) and, in that capacity organises ASN Networking Events, generally on a quarterly basis, and the ASN Annual Conference.

What services does the SPS provide?


A range of services are provided with the aim of strengthening public service management and leadership across the Civil Service, and ultimately the Public Service.

To this end, the Leadership Development Strategy (SPS-Leadership-Developement-Strategy-2013-2015) sets out the learning and development programmes which are being implemented for the SPS in the period 2013-2015. The Strategy reflects the need to support the ‘whole of Government’ philosophy of Civil Service management by supporting the top management cohort as a single resource, with mobility between organisations and a structured development programme for the members of the Service. The goal is to equip the SPS with the skills and supports necessary in meeting the key business challenges facing the Civil Service. It also aims to create a shared sense of purpose and focus in meeting these challenges.

The key learning and development components of the Strategy are the SPS Executive Coaching Programme, mobility and networking.

What is the Executive Coaching Programme?


An important element of the SPS Leadership Development Strategy is the provision of executive coaching to assist in strengthening senior management and leadership capacity across the civil service.

The SPS Executive Coaching Programme is rolled out each year and the cost of 3 participants per Department is covered by the SPS Secretariat. One-to-one coaching provides participants with the opportunity to progress key goals and develop a 12 month development plan with an experienced professional coach. This year 54 senior managers from across the Civil Service and also, for the first time, CEOs of Non-Commercial State Agencies are participating on the programme. Over 50 SPS members took part in last year’s programme and the pilot programme. You will be contacted as future tranches of the coaching programme are rolled out.

The SPS Management Committee decided in 2013 that all newly appointed Assistant Secretaries should participate in the Executive Coaching Programme.

How does Mobility work?


Mobility is a means of supporting individual development and of meeting the aim of creating a shared sense of purpose and focus at senior levels.

Since 2012 it has been a requirement that all vacancies at Assistant Secretary and equivalent levels within the Civil Service should be considered for mobility under the Senior Public Service (SPS) mobility protocol in the first instance.

The current mobility protocol is available here Revised Protocol on Mobility.

All eligible members of the SPS are kept informed of mobility opportunities as they arise.

To what extent can professional and technical grades avail of mobility?


It is recognised that there may be qualification, professional membership or other practical issues arising in relation to mobility amongst certain professional and technical grades.   In some cases, mobility from such posts to general service posts will be an option although the reverse may be less likely given professional and technical qualification requirements. In addition, specialisation in particular areas of expertise such as IT, finance, HR, strategic management, procurement, economics etc. will be supported and will open up mobility options within these specialist areas across the Service. Where mobility isn’t an option or is limited, the individuals concerned will nevertheless be encouraged to participate fully in the developmental and networking aspects of the SPS.

What is the role of the Assistant Secretary Network?


The Network owes its origins to the initial groups of Assistant Secretaries who participated in short Assistant Secretary residential training conferences run by the former Civil Service Training Centre in the late 1980s.  Participants had sought a means to develop the ideas and interaction built up during courses.  This was seen as a major development at a time when inter-departmental contacts were in many ways less developed than now.  Aside from pursuing a range of management development activities relevant to members’ needs, the Network has had roles in developing Civil Service initiatives and being active in the public service modernisation and management development areas, particularly the promotion of initiatives in strategic management.

The centre-piece of the Network’s activity is the Annual Conference.  The Conference has sought to bring members together to debate current themes assisted by international and national speakers.  The other main activity has been a variety of networking events on topics of common interest.

The Network’s activities are led by an Executive Committee drawn from volunteers from the Network.  Membership of the network has broadened over the years to cover the potential participation of all civil servants at Assistant Secretary level and others below Secretary General level that are members of Departmental MACs such as various Directors (with staff at Principal level reporting to them) or in some cases heads of Civil Service bodies.

[The Executive Committee is currently chaired by Gerry Howard, Office of the Revenue Commissioners.]

The SPS Secretariat acts as Secretariat to the Executive Committee of the Assistant Secretary Network and, in that capacity organises ASN Networking Events, generally on a quarterly basis, and the ASN Annual Conference.