NI Water: Minister failed to pick up Board’s early questions about Dixon?

Okay, another bullish performance from Minister Murphy here on the UTV report, though it is rare to see such a normally competent performer stuck for words in front of a camera.

What’s complicated things for him was the robust nature of the questioning from Conall McDevitt, on the amount of work the Minister did to come to his conclusion that the Independent Review Team was indeed independent.

He reasonably asserts that he cannot be across all the correspondence coming in and going out of the department. But he is also inviting the committee to believe that his former Permanent Secretary either deliberately mislead him (we know he misled the PAC before before admitting that he had Dixon’s letter), or kept him in ignorance to an extraordinary extent.

Adds: Sam McBride asks some pertinent questions in the News Letter this morning..

Is the Minister also asking us to believe that he not see the communication sent to Paul Priestly from the Board questioning the independence of Peter Dixon shortly after the IRT was convened?

At the very least, his own political antennae should have gone up when a CEO of another (but very different) privately owned utility with the potential for a very significant conflictof interest should NI Water ever be privatised was appointed to the IRT.

As we noted some weeks back when Priestly was suspended, it looks like the Minister was sold a pup by his Permanent Secretary to the extent that both he and his party are no longer in a position to work out what’s real and what’s not about the true story of NI Water.

Pure denials of knowledge he should by now have made it his business to find out will not suffice.

What’s perplexing is the extent to which the Minister is continuing with a narrative that is any case substantially falsified by the fact that Dixon was a willing participant in his own Permanent Secretary’s attempt to undermine the investigation of the PAC.

And how can he be certain that all of this is nothing more than – to use his own description from his UTV interview – a side show? Or does he feel so locked in by vested interests that he has no freedom to move independently on any of this?

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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