Slugger O'Toole

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What exactly has OFMdFM done in the last six months (warning, it’s not impressive)?

Mon 21 January 2013, 11:15am

The Irish News today goes back to a strange little communication from OFMdFM last July 18, which laid out ten achievements. As it notes in its editorial:

The statement was sent out one evening during the holiday period via email without any form of briefing. Further details were said to be unavailable and interviews with ministers were firmly ruled out, although it was claimed that the various initiatives would be brought forward over “a number of weeks”.

But they note upon examining in detail (and they give over three pages of analysis) those promises, just three out of ten have been fulfilled. In fact, like too much else emanating from Stormont Ministries:

“…the ten achievements turned out to be largely aspirational in nature and several of them can be seen in retrospect to contain aspects which had little factual basis.”

It is particularly alarming, given the damage caused to community relations since the loyalist flag protests began in early December, that OFMdFM’s commitment to pursuing its Cohesion, Sharing and Integration (CSI) strategy has so little credibility.

Now, it is not as though people in civil society in Belfast were not expecting the publication of CSI. From what’s known about it, few think it fits the fluid changes that have taken place on the ground, or that it takes sufficient account of future change. But it does exist, honest.

In fact the Irish News reminds us that in July (this is after all the controversy of Ardoyne and St Patricks had taken place), the document was expected to be published in September. Yet, as they note:

Nothing actually happened in September, the OFMdFM declaration was not updated and the vital CSI strategy remains just as much a mystery as it did five years ago.

What needs to be directly challenged is the idea that an administration should want to release a list of achievements but display an unwillingness to deal with the related questions which will inevitably arise.

The lack of accountability is striking, and not just in OFMdFM. Ask yourself with the heat and fire over the horsemeat issue in the House of Commons and Dail Eireann this week, there’s been little more than a ministerial statement from the Agriculture Minister (which was strangely consistent with the position of the UFU’s position , of “nothing to see here, now along and buy our burgers please”).

Amongst the three successfully completed pledges, one is the announce the Victims Commissioner. Amongst those not done is re-advertising the Ilex chair post. Not exactly the toughest of political challenges.

Which begs a lot of questions about what’s really going on up at Stormont Castle? And of Martin and Peter, what are you doing (or not doing) up there? And why are you not doing it?

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Comments (18)

  1. weidm7 (profile) says:

    Why don’t we seriously consider the option of joint rule? We’ve seen that stormont is not up to much, both sides veto anything controversial to their power base, so we could have the two governments force through legislation on sticky subjects. Give the assembly a certain amount of time to take action and if nothing’s done, force it through. It could be reserved for tricky issues.

    Of course that would require either government to give two figs about NI.

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  2. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    From the Slugger archive [19 July]

    The semi-detached polit-bureau are at it again. Whatever ‘it’ is… [Headline-grabbing? - Ed] Possibly… There’s certainly a lack of detail.

    In the absence of a sitting Northern Ireland Assembly to question them, and with no NI Executive meeting for them to jointly chair until September, the NI First and deputy First Ministers issued a statement last night. [It's a Queens' Speech! - Ed] Indeed.

    And a related post.

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  3. Neil (profile) says:

    They have no motivation really to do anything more than perform the bean counter role they’ve been assigned by Westminster. They know as long as they keep a good portion of their electorate in a perpetual state of paranoia on the sectarian front they’ll get the votes they need.

    But if we really needed to know what they’ve achieved we could go to one of the horse’s mouths: And are they content to have Westminster impose same sex marriages and abortion on demand on our community? Such folly.

    They’ve done sterling work in keeping gay people in their box. We should all be grateful.

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  4. If they performed the ‘bean counter role’ in a way that appeared moderately competent relative to services delivered then it would be a start.

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  5. Nevin (profile) says:

    “Amongst those not done is re-advertising the Ilex chair post. Not exactly the toughest of political challenges.”

    Ilex appears to be in a bit of a mess. According to its website, it has an interim Chairman and interim Chief Executive and no Director of Development and no Director of Finance and Corporate Governance.

    According to the OFMDFM news release, a ‘nine month extension, from 28 July 2012′ for an Ilex board member was announced on 8th January 2013.

    And this from the Northern Ireland Audit Office on 7th January 2013:

    “I have, however, qualified my audit opinion on the 2011-12 financial statements because of certain problems that have arisen in the past and which continue to impact in the current year.

    In total I have identified £614,479 of irregular expenditure in 2011-12 arising from three issues …”

    One of these irregularities has led to a significant loss of EU funding:

    Last year I reported on procurement issues relating to consultancy services for the Peace Bridge and it has now been identified that this is likely to result in the disallowance of European Union (EU) grant funding amounting to £312,573. This expenditure will now be met by additional funding from the Northern Ireland Executive.

    We don’t choose our elected representatives on the basis of their ability to govern but it seems that the chosen professionals leave a lot to be desired.

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  6. Nevin (profile) says:

    OFMDFM intro [July 2012]: “We are pleased to be able to give some detail on a range of policy decisions that we have taken during the course of the last number of days. We have reached a series of wide ranging agreements that will be to the benefit of people across the community and will deliver further progress in the Autumn on the reform agenda we have set out as part of our Programme for Government commitments.”

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  7. shamie (profile) says:

    This is also the central theme of the critique that Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin has been making for the last year.

    Someone should post a copy of the article to SF’s Eoin O Broin.

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  8. Nevin (profile) says:

    “The lack of accountability is striking, and not just in OFMdFM.”

    Just a reminder that Ministers claim to be following Treasury best practice on corporate governance, yet they don’t chair their Departmental Boards; there’s a clear disconnect between Ministers, senior civil servants and independent board members.

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  9. wiedm7[11.39]
    Actually both governmemts DO give a fig about NI, both would love to see it terminated, and it’s population decommisioned. Like permanently..

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  10. 925p (profile) says:

    Never mind the last 6 months, you only have to read the AQs to get a sense they have done very little for years. Unfortunately it’s the special advisors that seem to rule the roost up there and if they don’t have an interest in a particular topic then nothing gets done. Take the childcare strategy, been waiting for one since 1999, Junior Ministers ‘launched’ it before Christmas but they forgot to say it wasn’t an actual strategy just a blooming questionnaire to seek views for the real strategy. They should be highly embarrassed by their performance but then who is going to hold them to account? Maybe the media could start asking the right questions?

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  11. son of sam (profile) says:

    Careful Mick.If you continue to point out the lack of clothes on the two emperors you will be accused of “attacking the Peace Process”!! Keep up the good work.

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  12. iluvni (profile) says:

    Were free prescriptions and bus passes on the list, yet again?

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  13. David Crookes (profile) says:

    A mother sets out thirty melting moments in three rows of ten on a cooling tray. Her young son Fat Greedy Boy comes in and steals three of them. Carefully he rearrarranges the melting moments that remain in three rows of nine. Then he steals another three. Carefully he rearrarranges the melting moments that remain in three rows of eight

    PR and the other mighty ones of unionism are getting on like Fat Greedy Boy. They’ll keep going in the same manner until there are only fifteen melting moments left. Then they’ll cry boo-hoo and ask the rest of us what they ought to do.

    McMG is watching the melting moments disappear, and waiting his time.

    Not much of a recipe for strong action from the OFMDFM.

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  14. Nevin (profile) says:

    “McMG is watching the melting moments disappear, and waiting his time.”

    You’ve not been following the plot, David :) It’s a carve-up – sharing out, not sharing.

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  15. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Thanks, Nevin! What I had in mind was the fact of the census figures that senior politicians have known about for quite a long time. But carve-up is right. Since SF have ‘got’ education, there is very little that the unionist parties can do about education. And so on.

    The whole thing is predicated on letting parties enjoy their little fiefdoms. Classic trick, with a big bill for salaries. The people may not be content, but the politicians are, up to a point.

    A real partnership government needs to be genuinely genial in its heart. If we had that sort of government, PR would be welcome in Andersonstown, and MMcG would be welcome on the Newtownards Road.

    War may be politics continued by other means, but politics should not be war continued by other means.

    Wanted: something better, with a bit of new direction.

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  16. Nevin (profile) says:

    “special advisors that seem to rule the roost up there”

    That’s an aspect of governance worthy of exploration, 925p. As you can see from my 12:43pm post, there’s a disconnect between Ministers, senior civil servants and independent directors. If you add a SpAd between the Minister and the Permanent Secretary then the gap between the Minister and independent grows further.

    A few years back, a recently retired middle-ranking civil servant described how an FoI request to, say, the Minister would have been passed by the PS’s office down to a local office. However, the reply was intercepted by the SpAd and might or might not have made it back to to the PS’s office.

    I’ve stumbled on a circumstance where a Committee didn’t call a Minister or a SpAd during an investigation even though both were present at meetings where the matter under investigation was discussed.

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  17. 925p (profile) says:

    “That’s an aspect of governance worthy of exploration, 925p.”

    I would agree Nevin. Can we also explore the role of civil servants? What has alarmed me recently – perhaps I’m just rather naive – is finding out that what has been said during committee meetings is not a true reflection of what appears in Hansard.

    Can someone shed some light on why the two accounts would be different?

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  18. [...] I was pleased to hear that Mr Adams did not contradict my assertion last week that business in OFMdFM was hampered by the fact that Martin McGuinness has to refer most of its democratic decisions to a collective leadership group of the party (outside the democratic institutions) before anything could be agreed inside the democratic institutions. Apparently, that’s not the reason OFMdFM have not got round to advertising a chair for the ILEX in six months. [...]

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