Sam McBride has got hold of a note which reports the Minister’s view on the IRT’s initial report, asking them for harder recommendations:
In an apparent reference to the Sinn Fein minister, the note states: “CM view:
“1) IRT need to set out clearly what the problem is and deal with it in direct way!
“2) Must be clear in what IRT are saying – leave as little as pos (presumably possible) to the (illegible word); needs to be explicit!
“3) Will want to meet IRT.”
Now, in defence of Murphy, these are not directions to the IRT in the way that Priestly’s lengthy note and text suggestions were. It could more accurately be interpreted as politician asking a review team to get of the fence and say what it means.
That IRT hardened their final report along the lines suggested the by the Permanent Secretary is the nub of the question of the report’s independence and reliability. Not least when he was already plotting the axing of four Non Executives, that now, six months later, the Department has still failed to find full time replacements for.
In this case, it seems the Minister is merely doing what any politician who has to carry the can for his actions in public should do and push the team for clear findings. Lord knows they billed enough for their services (Jackie Henry, a senior partner at Deloitte and Touche was charged at £1,100 a day) to have least been expected to deliver that much.
That said, it should not detract from the reality that the Minister’s current position of defending the IRT report as above reproach is utterly indefensible.