Priestly’s return…

The Northern Ireland Department of Regional Development Permanent Secretary, Paul Priestly, was suspended on full pay in August last year. 

The former Permanent Secretary of the Welsh Assembly, Sir Jon Shortridge, was appointed by the head of the NI Civil Service, Sir Bruce Robinson, to lead the investigation into Priestly’s role in the NI Water saga – but with somewhat restricted terms of reference

The fall-out from that saga is now being felt in a wider political arena.

Sir Jon Shortridge reportedly concluded his investigation in November.

And yesterday we learned that, following a disciplinary hearing, Paul Priestly has been reinstated at the lower senior civil service position of Deputy Secretary.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, that ‘demotion’ comes with a £14,000 drop in salary – to just £92,000.  Although the Irish News suggested that Paul Priestly’s salary could, in fact, have been retained at its previous level.  And then there’s his pension…

The Shortridge report has not been published. 

And the Belfast Telegraph informs us that

A statement from the Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers (OFMDFM), responsible for overseeing the disciplinary hearing, said: “The head of he Civil Service Sir Bruce Robinson is now considering the staffing issues which arise from the demotion”.

At which point I can only echo Mick’s earlier quote from the glorious Yes, Minister.

“We dare not allow politicians to establish the principle that senior civil servants can be removed for incompetence. We could lose dozens of our chaps. Hundreds maybe. Even thousands.”

Now, about “the transparency expectations of a modern society…”

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

  • Pigeon Toes

    There has been a réidh out in DRD lately too. Just so happens the gap for a deputy secretary opened there,

    “Senior Staff Moves
    Malcolm advised the IBMs that Richard Pengelly would arrive in the Department on 30 May to replace Lian Patterson. Fiona Hamill would become Director of Finance from 16 May 2011. Roger Downey would move to the Department of Justice on 13 June and be replaced as Head of Financial Planning and Management Branch by Stewart Barnes.
    Finally, Malcolm reminded the Board that this was Doreen
    Brown’s last Board meeting, as she was due to retire on 21
    April 2011. On behalf of the Board, Malcolm thanked Doreen
    for her considerable contribution to the Board and the Department and wished her well in her retirement. No
    replacement had yet been identified for Doreen’s post”

  • According to the Irish News, they claim that the investigation report cannot be released for data protection reasons. Who are going to draft the freedom of information requests to show that up as an invalid reason?

  • Drumlins Rock

    where did I lave that bucket of whitewash?

  • DC


  • DC

    NIPSA will be laughing its head off at this one, what an open goal for them in future disciplinaries.

    Priestly sets a precedent in terms of getting off lightly after his integrity went missing in action and sense of duty to the assembly AWOL.

    NICS Senior Management: FAIL.

  • Pigeon Toes

    “According to the Irish News, they claim that the investigation report cannot be released for data protection reasons.”

    Didn’t you know that Data Protection only applies to civil servants, but is a loosely based principle where mere taxpayers/whistle blowers/”complainants” are concerned?

    Indeed I *know* that Mr Priestly justified effectively identifying two individuals within one of his infamous”independent investigations” was justified by the following “The Department, in preparing the report for publication, was conscious of the need to ensure that the personal data in the report was redacted to such an extent as to protect the identities of individuals, while at the same time ensuring that the report remained meaningful.

    To achieve such a balance the Department sought legal advice on how this could be done. The published report is the result of that advice. In my view, the Department has taken all reasonable measures to protect the identities of individuals named in the report while at the same time ensuring that the context and integrity of the report is meaningful to the reader”

  • Pigeon Toes

    Still can’t get around the same day BBC Chris Mellor piece. It makes no reference to the follow-up PAC inquiry etc, and Priestly interference in his sacking.


  • Pete Baker


    That would be because of the Lib Dem MP trying to score party political points and/or not being aware of the background.

    As for the BBC journalist…

  • “The fall-out from that saga is now being felt in a wider political arena.”

    PT and PB. the BelTel has a strikingly similar piece on page 2, written under the Staff Reporter by-line. How can that be? Some BelTel sentences contain fewer words:

    BBC: “But Monitor said it had confidence in Mr Mellor’s ability to do his job.”

    BelTel: “But Monitor said it had confidence in Mr Mellor.”

    Both make the same double mistake in this sentence: “Mr Mellor was sacked last March by Northern Ireland Water.”

    Mellor was sacked in 2010, not 2011, and he was sacked by Minister Conor Murphy.

    If I can borrow from both articles: “One or more of the Executive members (or SpAds) having a ‘colourful history’ is not going to provide an assurance to people in Northern Ireland.”

  • Pigeon Toes

    The BBC seem to be entirely oblivious to that PAC report

  • Cynic2

    Isnt the cut and past tool a wonderful thing. One press release and two articles almost identical

  • “Isnt the cut and past tool a wonderful thing”

    To change the metaphor slightly, Cynic2, the more discerning Slugger palates will easily spot a reheated pastie supper 🙂

  • Pigeon Toes

    …”In the letter to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Sir Bruce also said that he would not be releasing any documentation on the issue…..

    It has also been revealed that the disciplinary process was completed on 19 May, several weeks before news of the demotion was publicised.”

    Does this read as if Bruce Robinson doesn’t intend to release documentation to the PAC?

    If so it really demonstrates just how accountable the civil service is….