NI Water: Waiting for the FOIs to appear…

There are some really interesting (unhysterical) conversations (scroll down) being stirred up by the NI Water story, if it can yet be called a story. All we have so far are fragmentary threads the substance of which barely adds up to the sum of the parts. That’s because we are waiting for FOI requests to be returned from some of the several institutional parties to the ‘story’.

What matters in all of this is not the sacking of the NEDs per se, but the way it was done. Most of what we have so far are circumstances that ‘give rise to a perception’, no actual evidence of any wrong doing. For instance, why did the Independent Review Team continue taking contributions to its report right up to 24th February, if as the Permanent Sectretary says, he signed it off on the 18th?

We understand that NI Water’s CEO is conducting a forensic search for the source of the leaked emails that found their way into the hands to MLAs at the last PAC meeting before authorising the release of any further documents to the public. It is also understood that the SDLP’s deputy leader Patsy McGlone had something of a stand up ’email exchange’ with a DRD official over their tardiness in producing its material.

Other organisations that have been ‘FOIed’ include the NI Audit Office, Phoenix Gas and the Utilities Regulator. The PAC have been told that Mr Priestly’s amendments to first draft of the IRC’s report should be with them on 2nd August… A number of the FOIs will be looking at some of the associated conversations around those changes to ascertain upon just what basis the amendments were made…

And we also understand that the PAC has taken delivery of a very long and detailed report from Sue Holmes, the consultant who is taking legal action against Laurence MacKenzie, which should be distributed to Committee members tomorrow, Friday…

Update:  The report mentioned above has now been withdrawn (all copies to be destroyed) as she has been told she would only be protected by parliamentary privilege if she presents it in person before the committee… But not if it made in written form… She’s asking for commensurate protection from prosecution to that afforded by the PAC to Mr MacKenzie…

Ball now firmly in the court of the Chairman of the Committee…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty