The Minister for Finance has told the Dáil the Government could have spent 100 years consulting various bodies about decentralisation but it had in fact announced its intention four years ago and had now made a decision on the matter.

Charlie McCreevy said that Ireland was a very small country and the Government was not trying to put a man on the Moon or conquer the North Pole.

He said Ireland was well able for decentralisation and that it involved getting away from the Dublin mindset and arrogance towards the people of the country.

Separately, civil service unions meeting this afternoon are expected to have a wideranging discussion on Government proposals to decentralise over 10,000 civil servants out of Dublin.

Afterwards, representatives will meet officials from the Dept of Finance charged with implementing the relocation project.

It is expected that a subcommittee will be set up to oversee how the controversial scheme will proceed.

Reaction to the proposal announced in the Budget has been mixed.

Some unions have questioned whether sufficient numbers of staff will be prepared to leave Dublin on a voluntary basis, particularly given that the government has ruled out any relocation compensation.

They also point out that the proposal could result in duplication, with additional staff being recruited locally to fill gaps, while Dublin staff who refuse to move would have to be absorbed into other Dublin state agencies.

It is feared that an influx of superfluous staff in Dublin offices, particularly at a higher level, could damage the career and promotional prospects of lower grade civil servants.