The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has instructed all government departments to commence moves to cut over 80 allowances for serving State employees.

Brendan Howlin announced in September that following a review of around 1,100 allowances for public servants, only one was being abolished for existing staff.

However, he said some were being eliminated for new recruits or promoted staff.

The Government was criticised at the time for failing to meet a previously stated savings target of €75m for 2012.

Secretary General of the Department Robert Watt has outlined a priority list of allowances that should be abolished or reviewed for serving Government employees.

He said the departments should engage with staff representatives to secure immediate agreement to the elimination of those allowances payable where no business case exists to pay such allowances to new beneficiaries.

Some allowances could ultimately be bought out with a one-off lump sum using the Croke Park Agreement formula of one-and-a-half times the annual loss.

In other instances access to the allowance could be modified, for example, an acting-up allowance might only apply after 84 days instead of 28.

The Departmental reviews must be completed by 28 February 2013.

SIPTU has said any attempt to cut public sector allowances would be a breach of the Croke Park Agreement.

Seven allowances for current beneficiaries are targeted in the health sector:

- Island inducement allowance
- Cardiac allowance for ambulance staff
- Second opinion allowance for consultant psychiatrists
- Consultants continuing medical education allowance
- Gaeltacht allowance
- Travel allowance for non-nursing personnel
- Allowance for coordination and overseeing of undergraduate student therapists during clinical placements

Earlier, Minister Howlin told the Dáil that the Government planned to cut €3.8bn from the public service bill from 2009 to 2015.

He said allowances should only be paid out when all the criteria for the allowance is met.

The minister said his recent review was the first comprehensive one to be carried out.

Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald said Mr Howlin had made a "dog's ear" out of allowances and that he had backed away from something he proposed himself.

Separately, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said he is "absolutely satisfied" that no Labour Minister has engaged in pre-budget "kite flying".

Mr Gilmore said he agreed with Transport Minister Leo Varadkar that speculation about what will be in the budget should stop.

He said the people who suffered from kite flying were those who read or heard stories and feared some allowance would be cut, when it may not have been considered at all.

Asked about the report that around 80 public sector allowances may be cut, Mr Gilmore said the Minister for Public Expenditure was working on those allowances with individual departments.