Today is the deadline for DRD to get the text of the first two drafts of the IRT’s report requested by them at the PAC meeting on July 1st. It will then be up to chair Paul Maskey as to whether he chooses to share it immediately, or hold off until the next committee meeting in September.
If/when it does finally emerge, we’ll be checking the text carefully for significant changes between v1 of 15th February and v2 18th February when the Permanent Secretary set in motion the necessary means to sack the NEDs. And, in particular, the section quoted by the Minister when he announced the sackings.
In the meantime, BelfastJJ has the first FOI product up on his Politics NI blog around the appointment of the new interim directors.
It’s as intriguing for what the Department appears to have redacted as much as what it tells us. They block out the names of people who were considered ‘applicants’ but who didn’t get the post (we still officially have no idea who was on their long list).
He also finds that the direction from the Minister (via his Special Advisor Stephen McGlade) was not to announce the names of the new interim NEDs until a day or two prior to the PAC meeting on July 1st. The obvious conclusion being that the Minister wanted to give the PAC as little foresight of his decision as possible.
There is an interesting conversation in which Gary Fair whose email gives the impression that confirmation of political interests/involvement were not received until after the appointments were made. But this is rebutted sharply by Lian Paterson who says “they have all satisfied the conflicts of interest questioning at interview”.
She also questions why Fair, the Department’s point man on NI Water (‘shu’, we presume is a short hand reference for the Shareholder Unit), is pushing the job on to Mark Ellesmere who is head of legal at NI Water. Then Fair comes back to her confirming that the ‘political questionnaires’ have yet to be completed, and points out that they are needed “to keep all of us right”.
Nothing earth shattering, or necessarily wrong here. But indication, perhaps: 1, of a casual elision in the institutional walls between the Department and NI Water; and 2, a general haste in trying to get the new appointments over the line.
Stand by for more…
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