In the context of the recession and the need to deliver public services with maximum efficiency, this paper asks what lessons can be drawn from public perceptions of service quality in Ireland. In particular, it asks to what extent public services are meeting the needs and expectations of those most reliant on them - vulnerable groups in the population who cannot afford the option of 'going private'. Data from the European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS), 2007 are used to examine variations in the perceived quality of five public services in Ireland (health, education, public transport, care services for older adults and the state pension). The questions addressed are: ? How does Ireland compare with other European countries in terms of the perceived quality of public services? ? Are there differences between the economically deprived and the well-to-do in terms of how the quality of public services is assessed? ? What are the implications for policy on public sector reform? The results suggested that perceptions of the quality of public services tend to be low in Ireland, relative to other European countries, but that the perceptions varied across services. Public perceptions of health services, for instance, tend to be less positive than perceptions of education. Across four of the five services, those who were economically vulnerable gave a less positive evaluation. The implications of the results for public sector reform are discussed.