NI Water: All hope resiles to the PAC report…

It’s worth looking at what purports to be a communication from Laurence McKenzie in an internal memo to his staff… and that of the Minister on UTV… Both, it seems, are pinning their hopes on the PAC’s report (another of Mr Priestley’s attempts to manage the outcomes of other people’s work).

But as the News Letter notes this morning, the Minister’s explanation is undermined by the e-mail exchanges between Laurence McKenzie and Peter Dixon… Not mention Paul Priestley’s suggested changes, which the Minister made very clear he had not seen before. Here’ the relevant passage from the UTV programme:

JAMIE – I know you do not want to go into emails and all the communications but did you know that Paul Priestly was submitting actual wording to be incorporated in the IRT report?

CONOR – I am not aware of whatever exchanges there were. I asked the IRT people, before I received their report were they satisfied that it was independent. That it was their work and that it was evidenced based and that they can stand over it and they told me yes and I accept that assurance from them.

But weren’t Board very publicly sacked for not acting on what they weren’t told? That detail is obvious to anyone who reads the NI Water Timeline post on Slugger. It begs the question of what was the Minister’s special advisor doing at this time if he wasn’t keeping his eye on the detail before signing off on such an audacious public act?

Back to McKenzie’s internal communication of today. Note the particular language: “my role was to participate fully with the review”. Now, better grammarians than I will note the word is he should be looking for in that sentence is ‘co-operate‘. You participate ‘in‘ not ‘with‘.

Yet of course ‘in’ means ‘inside the machine’ so to speak (where on this occasion he plainly has no right to be), whilst ‘with’ indicates he where should be, outside that process.

So, that’s just semantics (I hear the sound of rustling web pages to see what you can get on me). But perhaps it’s indicative of this slightly half baked, half way house the CEO has built for himself.  Half in and half out.

We don’t need the PAC to tell us Mr McKenzie’s radical suggestion has brought him to a very awkward place indeed.

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

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