NI Water: “The permanent secretary accidently hit the caps button”

The News Letter this morning picks up on our ‘scoop’, the email from Permanent Secretary Paul Priestly to the Auditor General, Kieran Donnelly, and asks DRD for clarification of what was going on with those BLOCK CAPs of his:

“The permanent secretary did not make recommendations on behalf of the IRT. The permanent secretary was not suggesting any course of action in the investigation. The permanent secretary accidentally hit the caps button – it was not an instruction to Mr Donnelly.”

Well, fair enough. But if it was an genuine accident, then it is surely a little strange that Mr Priestly thought well enough to have signed it off immediately afterwards in lower case:




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  • Pigeon Toes

    “Well, fair enough. But if it was an genuine accident, then it is surely a little strange that Mr Priestly thought well enough to have signed it off immediately afterwards in lower case”

    And it’s not like he can use “automated signature”as an excuse. The lack of surname is the key….

    Paul Priestly”

  • Perhaps the Caps Lock thingy can be put down to Monday Morning Blues. The 10:16 from Paddington is in bold type and he’d just had a call from Jackie Henry. Maybe he was wobbling like a jelly – had gone all jittery. Where’s Ms Marple when you need her?

  • Cynic

    Once upon a time …………..

  • willis

    From the Newsletter article.

    “The department’s comments follow the leak of an email from DRD’s permanent secretary, Paul Priestly, relating to an independent probe into a multi-million pound contracts fiasco at Northern Ireland Water.”

    So let me get this right. Putting in a FOI and getting a response constitutes a ‘leak’

    Maybe that is Water Service slang.

  • Mick Fealty

    Well, it didn’t come to me by FOI… so, technically speaking it was indeed a leak…

    It’s a very good article from McBride. He obviously took the time to watch the PAC proceedings on the BBC’s Democracy Live feed:

    I would encourage anyone who hasn’t, and who is still puzzled by this story, find a spare three hours our so and watch it all, if you can…

  • William Markfelt

    Ooh, now, Mick.

    You’ve pulled me for insinuation against the NIAO (your board, your rules, fair enough).

    But aren’t you rather speculating on the overly matey tone and being somewhat cynical about Priestly’s evident failure to pass elementary Pitman’s?

    It’s quite obvious and wholly clear that this was just a typing error. I can’t quite believe you’d be so bold as to infer that a few badly-typed words infer something as inherently wrong as the DRD issuing clear instructions as to how the NIAO should proceed.

  • William Markfelt

    I’m not sure about ‘taking a leak’.

    But DRD are clearly taking the piss.

  • joeCanuck

    It’s not Mrs. Marple you need. Rose Mary Woods can explain it easily.

  • Mick Fealty

    It’s a legitimate line of inquiry based on empirical evidence. You went a great deal further.

    I am not saying he didn’t make that mistake, just pointing out that the evidence is more ambivalent than his statement would suggest.

    But seriously, no purpose is served by taking great cynical leaps and bounds. It merely muddies the waters somewhat.

  • William Markfelt

    It’s a pity that text doesn’t demonstrate a somewhat dry and wry tone in my last post 🙂

    Leaving that aside, I do believe that the NIAO play a key role in the NIW saga, as well as elsewhere. and have many, many questions to answer themselves.

    Furthermore, I could actually back up my claims about the NIAO up (or at least, present some written evidence as to what was said previously to back up my claims regarding their machinations). Granted, these could possibly be challenged by the NIAO, but I believe that what I have in certain paperwork would certainly ‘give rise to the perception’ of dirty deeds done dead cheap^. Furthermore, I would suggest that others could present their own assessment (also based on paperwork) as to key failings and persistent failings by and of the NIAO.

    I do note a certain slippage to where they become rather more central in the entire NIW saga than they have, as bit players, been until now. If there’s any movement in the ‘right’ direction, I feel that the NIAO’s role in all of this could become core come October. And that their role could, ultimately, make Paul Priestly’s role seem like that of a bit-part player.

    But you’re correct in the muddying the waters remark, because to introduce some of that evidence now merely dilutes the need to focus on the DRD right now. But if the DRD saga goes ‘the right way’, I would have absolutely no fear in introducing ‘evidence’ against the ‘independence’ of the NIAO. Yes, we DO need to focus on the DRD and NIW. But this is a much, much bigger (I believe) matter than just NIW/DRD. It’s pointing to a level of corruption right across many of the departments and agencies that we’re only scratching at right now.

    Dallat’s ‘show trial’ remarks are, in that context, remarkably prescient.

    Ultimately, though, you’re correct. Leaps and bounds to somewhere else serve none of us right now, and while I’d be more than a little keen to see the NIAO skewered, I guess I got a little bit of the run of myself on that matter.

    The NIAO can keep, for now.

    *perhaps I should leak some of this documentation to the SDLP in due course.

  • wild turkey


    thanks for the memories

    ah, yes miss woods. wasn’t she a bit of a contortionist?

    a bit like some of the players in this little episode

  • wild turkey


    on most keyboards, the caps lock key is immediately to the left of the ‘a’ key. above is the ‘q’ key and below is he ‘z’. for obvious reasons neither are used that often.

    can you remind us just what the sentence was previous to the sentence in caps? Did the final word contain an ‘a’ ‘q’ or ‘z”?

  • The Raven

    I was never a fan of NIAO. Often thought we should have been pointing the finger at a lot of their “studies” and asking “why??”

    Well. I suppose they only cost £17m for the past two years. And while everyone is cutting back, their resource allocation just went up another £500,000.

    Just sayin’, like.

  • Mick Fealty


    Er, no.

  • William Markfelt

    It’s also worth reminding ourselves that more than one NIAO report to the PAC has been signed off on little more than empirical evidence, but PAC have hitherto allowed mere allegations, to which the ‘victim’ has no right of reply to PAC, to stand as their ‘case’.

    I imagine search phrases like ‘not enough evidence’ on the Hansard search button should turn up enough examples of how the ‘show trials’ work.

  • Pigeon Toes

    So right now DRD are undergoing another “forensic investigation”,

    Oh the accusations,,,and er WE pay for it?

    (Well done that man/woman)

  • Pigeon Toes

    How do you know that that WM’s comments aren’t based on empirical evidence within his possession?

    Just a thought…

  • Sarah LMH

    surely most people have an automated sign off on their emails… I certainly did on my work email…. and it would come up regardles of whether I had typed other words IN CAPS OR NOT..

    let’s not berate a man for USING CAPS – it’s hardly the worst thing going on in our beautiful land this decade?

  • Magnus

    Bring back capital punishment I say, that’ll teach him.

  • Mick Fealty


    CAPs or no caps… that’s just an interesting detail…

    The latest post demonstrates why it raises questions, not least since the independence status of the IRT has been in question since the PAC met last month…

  • Pigeon Toes

    Oh it would MAGNUS

  • Magnus

    Just to show I’m a decent sort of chap and can stand a joke I’ll let you off with a little light corporal punishment but be warned no more capitalisation even in jest unless absolutely necessary.

  • Neville Bagnall

    Usually when CAPS LOCK is on, caps shift has the effect of lowercase shifting the typed character.

    So lets assume that the PermSec accidentally hit caps lock; lets further assume that he isn’t a touch typist and didn’t notice the capitalisation as he typed; also that he had an automated signature on his email with the familiar first name only sign off preceding the formal details; and finally that he sent the email without noticing the ALL CAPS sentence.

    Even allowing for all that, should the sentences not have read as:

    “She readily accepted this, but said she wanted to hear how the NIAO intends to deal with the matter in ASSISTING THE pac IN COMING UP WITH THEIR FINAL REPORT.

    Like Mick says, its a small point, but both the original email and even more so the somewhat incredible explanation seems to point to a culture, both in appropriate division of responsibilities and also proffered explanations for behaviour that leaves something to be desired.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Perfectly true. wELL DONE 😉