Sir Jon Shortridge concludes his inquiry…

That’s what we’re hearing, although nothing’s officially been broken to the media as such. We understand that despite some internal lobbying from senior civil servants he is to recommend disciplinary action against Paul Priestley, the Permanent Secretary who drafted a letter attacking members of the Public Accounts Committee.

It is also our understanding that the investigation went wider than Mr Priestley. As ever, be restrained in your comments!


  • Jj

    Of course it should have gone wider. Did PP not have a letter drafted for him, or did he draft himself. If the latter, itd be a first…

  • Bruce Robinson statement on September 1, 2010 includes the Terms of Reference for the Shortridge investigation.

  • DC

    Disciplinary action – wonder if it merits termination, or worse perhaps – seconded to the Irish Civil Service!

  • Drumlins Rock

    try this episode of yes minister for comparisons.

  • Pigeon Toes

    It’s the fact that there is “internal lobbying” which is of concern…Whilst no doubt common, surely the idea is that Mr Shortridge’s report and conclusions are ahem *independent* i.e without being influenced by others? ;-D

  • Perhaps just another ‘error of judgement’, PT. And then there’s the matter of premature leakage.

  • gottasay

    It should have gone wider! Weren’t other Civil Servants copied on the e mail,failed to comply with F.O.I requests to give it up,and then deleted it?

    Does anyone know if McKenzie was interviewed?Is he not paid by taxpayers ,didn’t he also fail to comply with F.O.I and then delete the e mail? Why should he escape sanction?

    Would also be interesting to know if Information Commissioner has completed his investigation into McKenzie’s previous failure to comply with F.O.I requests.

    How this man is still in office is amazing! It is an affront to every right minded citizen than he can retain office after all that has happened.
    Conor Murphy- mister action man and decisive leader? -don’t make me laugh.

  • Jj

    This letter was drafted by someone other than PP. I would venture to suggest that those cc’d into it asssted in its production and should also therefore have been interviewed and subjected to disciplinary procedures.

    However, their argument could have been that he was their boss and directed them to assist. On the other hand, he himself could argue that he was placed in a vulnerable position in front of the AC due to their (Lian Patterson and Gary Fair’s) patent incompetence to manage the shareholding in NIW.

    I would suggest that the next stage of discipline would be to ensure he is subject to management control – i.e., is no longer head of a departmnt, but possibly a Deputy Secretary (Dep Sec), holding his current salary on a mark-time basis until such a point that it reaches the maximum of the Dep Sec scale.

    I would further suggested that no more annual bonuses accrue to his income for the remainder of his career.

    This I think would be put on a “take it or leave it” basis”.

    But who, I wonder, did the lobbying? The Head of the NICS?

  • gottasay


    I have no doubt your analysis is going to prove close to the mark.

    If it does, where does it leave the credibility of the Civil Service, and the precedent it sets for any other Civil Servant
    if he/she chooses to behave in a similar manner in the future?

    How will it be justified against the dismissal of one of the NEDs at N.I.W (Gormley) for writing a couple of strongly worded e mails to no marks like Dixon ,Henry and the other guy (whose name I’ve forgotten he was such a non entity )

    Doesn’t quite send out the message that any of the much trumpeted Seven Principles stand for very much in Civil Service Land.

  • Jj


    Declan Gormley wasn’t dismissed for writing those emails (which were his right to write!) but as part of the wider NED clear out which happened because they didn’t act quicker on a report…they hadn’t seen!

    DG hasn’t gone away, you know. He WAS badly treated for something that was not his fault – PP has been disciplined for something he DID do.

  • Pigeon Toes

    As predicted by many over the past few moths, an official announcement just before the Christmas recess?

  • joeCanuck

    Surely lobbying by Senior Civil Servants over a disciplinary matter is totally improper. Could border on an attempt to obstruct Justice. It should at least require another enquiry.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Does that not make them guilty of similar offences i.e the interference in a seemingly independent process?

  • I can’t think of any better timing, PT.

    The Coalyard Cottage plans were ‘bundled’ through Moyle Council two days before Chistmas and officially sanctioned two days before the New Year – despite earlier official objections 🙂

  • Joe, officialdom might not label it lobbying. It may just have been checkpointing, you know, part of the customary progress reporting:

    “In answer to your question the following people attended this meeting on 1 February 2010:

    Paul Priestly
    Lian Patterson
    Laurence MacKenzie
    Jackie Henry
    Glenn Thompson
    Peter Dixon

    By way of context, this was a normal Checkpoint meeting between the Accounting Officers who commissioned the review and those who were carrying out the review. It is not unusual for Checkpoint meetings like this to happen under such circumstances.”

    In summary, officialdom in the form of Ministers and/or top Civil Servants set the terms of reference for investigations into departmental or departmental-related issues and keep a close eye as the investigation progresses. Perhaps Shortridge had one or more Checkpoint meetings during the course of his investigation.

    It’s also quite possible for such or similar meetings not to be recorded as was the case for the DRD side of that meeting in downtown Belfast on September 2, 2009, attended by Murphy, McGlade, Priestly, Patterson and MacKenzie.

    One of the consequences of an incomplete audit trail is that justice is unlikely to be done.

  • Sam McBride in the News Letter:

    “However, two well-placed government sources told the News Letter that Sir Jon’s report into Mr Priestly’s actions in July has found that he should be disciplined.

    Hmmm. Were these leaks or were they answers to questions? Are the sources civil servants, special advisors or MLAs? Are they the same sources referenced by Mick?

    IMO this is very much a side-show. Priestly had merely come to the aid of a friend following a ‘brawl in the hall’. Whatever happened to the main event – whatever that was?

  • Mick, have you had any feedback as yet from the outcome of the closed PAC session on November 11?


    Room 144 (2.00pm)

    Consideration of Report on Measuring the Performance and Governance of NI Water


    Re FOI requests i thought i’d share this snippet from the Head of Corporate Communications and Information Management
    Department for Regional Development


    Finally in relation to your last point, I have no difficulty in accepting that I and other civil servants are accountable and I strive to adhere to the seven principles of public life. However, I would point out that civil servants are not ‘fair game’ and are entitled to their rights as citizens, which includes a right not to have to face abuse. I noted that when you posted selected extracts from my response to your internal review on certain blog sites, that responses to this included abusive language directed at me personally. It is perhaps regrettable that ‘bloggers’ are not more ‘accountable’.


  • Jj

    I didn’t see any “abusive language” directed at him? Eh?

  • Pigeon Toes

    Belfastjj I have every sympathy with this civil servant who is merely performing a function, and taking direction from what is released or otherwise.
    It is actually unfair to bring criticism on them directly IF it is not their decision to make.

    Highly stressful for the individual involved, and it’s showing…

  • Stressful – lets see are they a Nurse NO are they a Firefighter NO are they a Police Officer NO

    Thats real stress !! crocodile tears springs to mind

  • It’s six months since Shortridge supposedly completed his report. Why are we waiting?