Special advisors for “friendly little piglets”

Thanks to a slow news day, and an archive, I was able to note the BBC’s Martina Purdy’s post on how party political opinions of the positions of junior ministers, to the First and Deputy First Ministers, have changed in a short period of time.. Now it appears that the positions are deemed to be so important, and/or complicated, that the current incumbents need a special advisor each. The key element in the story, along with the new salaries, is that the appointments of special advisors to those junior ministers required a change in legislation.. which was achieved at a Privy Council meeting – According to the BBC report it was at this particular meeting on 25 July [word doc] attended by Rt Hon Baroness Ashton of Upholland (Lord President), Rt Hon Jack Straw MP, Rt Hon Ed Balls MP, and Rt Hon Dawn Primarolo MP. Update According to this Belfast Telegraph report there are now 16 special advisors to the Executive.. and, following the new appointments, 8 of the 16 are attached to the Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers.Adds From the BBC report, those new special advisors are..

Ex-Sinn Fein press officer Mark McLernon is working for junior minister Gerry Kelly, while Victoria Taylor is advising Ian Paisley Jr.

, , ,

  • GavBelfast

    Are you watching George Orwell?

  • BonarLaw

    “Victoria Taylor is advising Ian Paisley Jr.”

    What happened to Emma Little?

  • joeCanuck

    oink oink.

  • Dawkins

    But who is to advise the special advisors?

    Don’t laugh. It could quite easily come to that, and a new extension to Stormont may be needed to house the overspill.

  • the doc

    at the cost of??? when people have to wait a week to see a doctor when hospitals are filthy thats all we need more spin doctors

  • Rory

    Surely it is advisable for a man to employ a special advisor before making any public utterances.

    Herself has appointed herself as mine, for as she so wisely says, “Otherwise you’d go around speaking your own mind and making bloody fools of the lot of us”.

  • wild turkey

    ‘oink oink.’

    indeed Joe C but that is the natural sound at the pork barrel. on a more serious note. questions.

    1. are the job descriptions in the public domain?
    2. do the job descriptions ensure that appointees sole work is to advise ministers and not undertake party political work?
    3. are the appointments to these posts made as a result of clear and transparent selection procedures consistent with all aspects of employment law including Fair Employment, gender, race, disability etc etc?

    answers on a postcard please.

  • BonarLaw

    wild turkey

    1. No
    2. Yes
    3. No

  • Aquifer

    Have we had any legislation produced by the MLAs yet? They didn’t do much last time.

  • wild turkey


    assuming your source(s) are correct, thanx for answers 1,2,3.

    am slightly surprised by answer 2

  • Alan

    Hold on a minute, OFMDFM acording to its own website covers

    Central Anti-Poverty Children and Young People
    Community Relations
    Equality Commission
    Equality Scheme
    Fair Employment
    Gender Equality
    Human Rights
    North Belfast Community Action Unit
    Racial Equality and Good Relations
    Equality Research
    Sex Discrimination and Equal Pay
    Sexual Orientation
    Section 75
    Single Equality Bill
    Victims Unit

    The question is surely not whether there is a need for support for Junior Ministers. There certainly is.

    The issue is whether the Advisors have the specialisms required to advise.

  • wild turkey


    Most of the ‘specialisms’ you list from the Oftdum website are subsumed within the depts Equality Unit. I would have thought all the specialist expertise needed to deal with equality issues already exists, especially given that there is a bespoke research unit.

    All ministers have to do is avail themselves of the already existing expertise. I remain to be convinced otherwise

  • joeCanuck

    “The question is surely not whether there is a need for support for Junior Ministers. There certainly is.”

    Isn’t that the job of the Civil Service?

  • mmmmmm

    Its just the fact that the DUP were so opposed to even have junior ministers at all let alone advisors, I believe they also made a fuss the excessive cost of ministerial advisors as well at times during the last assembly…..now I guess its jobs for the boys (and girls).

  • Dawkins


    Your list is impressive — until one recalls that the administration administrates a mere 1.7m souls, the population of a mid-sized city.

  • Both SF and the DUP kicked up a stink (Paisely Jr included – of course he was giving it his usual copious amounts of lip!) when the UUP (and SDLP?) introduced the post of Jr Ministers in OFMDFM (in 1999?). How times change?

    Jobs for the boys is an understatement if ever I heard one. Hypocritical parasites! I already find Paisley Jr totally risible, yet every time I see or hear him my impression of him gets even worse.

  • Alan

    “Isn’t that the job of the Civil Service? ”

    Certainly not, the key is to be able to finesse the mass of civil service detail in order to meet clear political objectives. There needs to be a concerted drive towards ministerial, rather than departmental goals. Otherwise there is no point in having politicians.

    A minister can’t always be on top of the legislative minutiae, so advisors become crucial – but they have to be able to advise.

    On Dawkins comments re a small population – yes, but the issues retain their complexity, we may only have 23,000 people with a learning disability, but that will not lessen their disabilities. Indeed, the smaller the taxable population, the more “taxing” the policy issues become.

  • joeCanuck

    Disagree Alan.
    If the departmental goals are not the Minister’s goals, time for a new principal officer.

  • Alan

    Joe C.

    “time for a new principal officer” – How exactly ?

    In an ideal world the bureaucratic momentum swings with politics. Here the momemtum has swung away by itself for all too long. Advice is all about focus maintained through the implementation process to achieve outcomes.

    I have a lot of time for the election of officials as in the states. It is an important driver to overcome bureaucratic inertia.

  • joeCanuck

    Are you telling me Alan that ministers have no power of firing, or at least having reassigned, their principal officers who don’t follow ministerial direction or instruction?
    Are they all Sir Humphreys(?).

  • wild turkey

    ‘I have a lot of time for the election of officials as in the states. It is an important driver to overcome bureaucratic inertia.’

    Alan. two points

    1. agreed bureaucratic inertia is a problem in this, and many many jurisdictions. there is a very high correlation between where one is on the bureaucratic food chain and risk adversity. higher up = higher risk adversity. however, and with due respect, i do not see how the appointment of these advisors will in practice alter the dynamic. it could equally be said enhance the inertia.

    2. on the point of elected officials in the states. in the winter of 78/79 i lived on the USA east coast. the month of february was bitterly cold. not above zero farenheit during the day. the saying in the city was this:-

    its cold.
    how cold is it?
    well yesterday I saw a politician with his hand in his own pocket

  • Sheep

    Of course very few of these special advisors have any expertise in their fields, they are appointed for no reason other than political membership from what I can see.

  • k

    [edited moderator]

    Nothing but a party Apparatchik paid for by us lot.
    I’ll let you guess which advisor this is….