Write down “Peter Hain, MP”… they never check the references anyway..

As the Press Association.. and the BBC reports says, Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland, Peter Hain, has responded to the criticism of Don MacKay’s appointment to the Parades Commission. In a letter to the SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly he stated “I believe we have the best people to do the job and the Parades Commission has my full support”. Now I know from the previous thread that some people don’t see the problem here, and in particular, some don’t seem to have a problem with the references used by Don MacKay in his application to a position on the Parades Commission, so I’ll attempt to set out why I believe it is a problem.Before that, here are the remainder of the avaiable quotes from Peter Hain’s letter, as reported by the BBC

“As you know, all appointments to the Parades Commission were made by me, taking into account the range of skills and experience that each member would bring to the commission.

“You asked specifically about Mr MacKay’s appointment and I understand that he has now written to you to explain his personal position in including you as a referee.

“I hope that this has now provided you with clarification.”

Firstly the Parades Commission is a public body, funded by tax-payers, another of the numerous quangos the Review of Public Administration was supposed to be reducing.. and arguably another body taking decisions that should be taken by the courts, in relation to the rule of law.. but we’ll leave that to one side for now.

We’ll also leave to one side, although it’s undoubtedly pertinent in this case, the political affiliations of Don MacKay, a former local councillor [1993-1997] and a member of the Royal Black and Orange Institution, and Dolores Kelly, a SDLP MLA.

What we’re left with is a private individual, seeking an appointment to a public body, using as a reference in support of his application to a position on that public body, the name of a democratically elected representative of a regional Assembly – without seeking that representative’s consent.

Add to that the admission by the NIO, and in the light of the released letter today, Peter Hain, that the none of the references – of any of the applicants – were followed up on, not even when the reference was that of an elected representative.

Those facts should, at the very least call into question the judgement of the Don MacKay, and should also call into question the procedures for appointments to such public bodies. Additionally, given the latest statements from Peter Hain, the facts that we’re aware of should also call into question the judgement of the Secretary of State.. who now appears to believe it’s a matter bewteen the two individuals concerned and nothing more than that.

Of course, we could assume from this that Peter Hain, MP, is perfectly happy for his name to used in any application to a public body here that you may be thinking of making… and you might as well use him as a reference.. after all.. the NIO isn’t going to check..

  • Mickhall


    The reason few of us are surprised that references were not checked out is because all positions on government Quangos are given in reward for being politically pliable. Thus what you have sitting on such Quangos is some of the most despicable and useless individuals one could imagine. These positions are filled by a nod and a wink, there is only one question asked by; and of the likes of Mr Hain, will the applicant upset the apple cart. If not they can climb upon the gravy train.

    The growth of Quangos since Thatchers reign really is a national disgrace, as you say those who sit on them receive public money for doing so and by the average persons standard its a considerable sum, payments are well above the average wage for example. All of these positions should be put before the electorate and a good few others as well.

    There was a time when those retiring from public service received one of Betty Windsor’s gongs, these days they get the gong, and the chair of some hostpital trust or some other quango to top up their pension. The promise of which has kept them brown-nosing throughout their lifetime. No power without going before the electoral process should become our watchwords.

    Best regards

  • Pete Baker


    I don’t doubt that many are unsurprised [a different reaction than the one I referred to – see previous thread].. as you’ve outlined such quangos are normally filled by politically, or otherwise, convenient appointments.. but don’t mistake my criticism for surprise.

    But this is a situation that deserves particular criticism.. for the reasons I’ve pointed to in the post.

  • Pete Baker

    Just to add.. given the controversial nature of the decisions being made by the Parades Commission.. the ‘usual quango’ treatment is even more inappropriate.

    Oh and.. “since Thatcher’s reign”?!!


    Bit out of date there, Mick? 😉

  • lámh dearg

    Yes indeed, the validity or otherwise of the quango should not be the issue here.

    The problem surely is that a job applicant falsely and deliberately stated that someone was willing to support his application and give him a reference to help him secure the job when this was not the case.

    The offence is made worse in this case by virtue of the fact that the unwitting “referee” was chosen specifically to create a particular impression of cross community support which was not present.

    I do not see how MacKay can retain any credibility to do this job now. How can anyone believe anything he says?

  • Mickhall

    imh dearg,

    Yes lets crucify one individual and in the process help the powers that be claim their wretched system works, not the way to improve this problem imo.


    The system which operated before Thatcher was somewhat different. Whilst this due to the sectarian nature of the Statelet, was of little use to the minority community in the north, it did operate in a slightly more democratic manner across the Irish sea. What happened was members of Trade Unions, Business Associations, Churches, NGA, etc, where asked to nominate[in the case of TU elect] their members to sit on hospital boards, tribunals, etc, etc. [i e Todays Quangos]

    Where as to day those who sit on these Quangos come almost exclusively from the middle class professionals or political parties, back then you had people from a far wider class background, which often made their judgement more rounded and fair. These days unless they have been political activists, working class people are almost totally [un-officialy] excluded from sitting on quangos, tribunals, appeals panels, etc.

  • Jill Robinson

    You watch the fur fly come the first decision re a controversial march, and the disinterested Mr. McStay casts his honest vote.

    Talk about the lunatics taking over the asylum.

  • Jill Robinson

    That should have been Mr. MacKay of course.

  • Pete Baker


    No individual is being crucified here.. justifiable criticisms are being made of both MacKay and Hain – all in the original post.

    Perhaps you’d like to address the points made there?

  • lámh dearg


    I’m not trying to defend the quango system. These are two seperate arguments surely;

    should the Parades Commission Quango exist?

    should someone who applies for a job with deliberately false significant information on their application form be appointed or allowed to remain when that falsehood is discovered?

    I was expressing an opinion about the second question.

  • andy

    Mick Hall
    I’d actually beg to differ with you on the quango/public appointments area. In terms of outcome I believe that appointments to public bodies now represent “the community they serve” in terms of proportion of members from an ethnic minority (admittedly a broad description).
    You are right about them being middle class though.
    The main issue I have with what you said is that public appointments now are much better regulated than they were pre-Nolan report and the creation of OCPA (www.ocpa.gov.uk)in 95/96 – at least there’s a process and some measure of assessing candidates now, prior to this point the system was open to the abuse of completely inappropriate or uncommitted people being nominated by their political allies.


  • missfitz

    I still think this is much ado about nothing. A lot is being made of the inclusion of Dolores Kelly on the application without her knowledge or consent.

    We may extrapolate a lot of meaning from that, but the hard fact remains, you may indeed place anyone you wish as your referee. It is a courtesy to inform them or ask them to provide a positive response. Technically, you do not need their permission.

    You see, Dolores Kelly had the trump card here. She would have been in the position to make her comments about the said individual when her reference was sought. That would have been her opportunity to say, no indeed, I do not support this candidate on the grounds of……..

    Now, the fact that she was denied this opportunity takes it all back to the NIO and the decision to request references that were not taken up. They may have satisfied themselves that the individuals were of significantly public profile that a reference was superfluous. They may have left themselves wriggle room, or mouch more likely, they used a standard form which asked for referees even though they did not intend to seek this information.

    I really dont think anything has happened here other than a little “nose out of jointedness” and subsequent political opportunism.

  • missfitz

    there has been a controversial parade, in fact there have been two, and two decisions have been made in that respect. What you meant perhaps to say, wait until something goes wrong? What a pleasant thought and wish for the plain people.

  • slug

    “What we’re left with is a private individual, seeking an appointment to a public body, using as a reference in support of his application to a position on that public body, the name of a democratically elected representative of a regional Assembly – without seeking that representative’s consent. ”

    This isn’t a problem. Its common to put peoples name down as a referee without asking their consent. It is best to ask for consent to check if the person is likely to write a good one. I have just written a ref for someone without them asking my consent.

  • Mickhall

    Mickhall1, 2 and 3 where not posted by me, i e Mick Hall. I am beginning to feel apprehensive about posting to slugger due to the aforementioned balls up.


    I’m not against Mr Hain and MacKay being called to account, they clearly should be. It is just my main gripe is with the whole system of appointments to quangos.


    You claim the system works better than in the past, I’m not so sure, either way it is undemocratic and is totally staffed by go-for’s and middle class professionals when the administration of public bodies should be overseen by our piers.

    You claim that public bodies are far better administrated these days, well what the MacKay case highlights is as far as appointments to these quangos goes, they are not administered at all. They clearly work on who you know and it seems the mere mention of certain peoples names is enough to get one a lucrative position. The old boys network in other words, the favorite tool of the British establishment.

    If anything the new system has increased political patronage as far as appointments to these bodies are concerned, you will be hard pushed to find anyone appointed to these quangos who do not have a link with one or another of the UKs main political parties. For example how many greens or left socialists get appointed to quangos, yet they are some of the most knowledgeable and energetic people.

    I find your following statement worrying, “completely inappropriate or uncommitted people [being nominated by their political allies”.] leave aside your political point as this clearly still happens if not more so. but surly the whole point of appointing people to administer public bodies is that like juries they should be just like the rest of us, as they are there to represent the ordinary person. Thus they have no need to be experts or have a history of being committed to the task to hand. Their criteria should be simply they are willing to take the job on. And in doing so they bring their life’s experience with them.

    All of these public bodies have professionals to administer/operate them. What the public needs is someone to represent them on the inside to ensure fair play etc. Myself I have enough confidence in my fellow man that 9/10 times they will have the sense to do this job.

    By the way if you look at the chairs of most quangos, Parades commission for example few of those who chair these bodies have had much experience of what they end up adjudicating on.
    No power over public organizations with out going through an electoral process.

    Mick Hall

    PS. Could someone from Slugger remove my name from the posts I mention above.

  • Pete Baker

    Unfortunately Mick, until Mr Fealty has access to Slugger central, to correct the fault, the mis-attribution of commenters name is an unavoidable irritation.

    I realise your main gripe is the wider quango system.. but I’m focussing on this particular issue – which I’d argue illustrates the wider problem.

  • Mickhall

    I realise your main gripe is the wider quango system.. but I’m focussing on this particular issue – which I’d argue illustrates the wider problem.
    Posted by Pete Baker



    posted by Mick Hall

  • urquhart

    How come there hasn’t been a word here about the latest revelations re Mr MacKay?

  • Jill Robinson

    “How come there hasn’t been a word here about the latest revelations re Mr MacKay?”

    What? I heard nothing. He’s, uh, not a pedophile or anything nasty like that, is he?

  • urquhart

    Don’t know anything about that, but he was on the front page of The Irish News and Daily Ireland this morning – was involved in a fair employment tribunal in early nineties.

    Was cleared of discriminating against the guy who took the case, but was found to be playing loyalist tunes in his quarters, selling loyalist calendars in aid of his local lodge, and his claim that he hadn’t assaulted the guy was deemed to be ‘incredible and untrue’.

    Sinn Fein has joined the SDLP in calling for his resignation.

  • Jill Robinson

    Thanks Mick, I just googled it. Quite incredible. Like the school bully being put in charge of discipline.

    What’s going to happen if MacKay remains? Nobody can take the commission seriously. Hain must know that. Wonder what game he’s playing now.