NI water crisis: “why Sinn Féin and the DUP have reacted with a mix of denial and pulpit thumping”

Via Newshound, in the Sunday Times Liam Clarke adds his thoughts on the “pulpit thumping” intervention of the OFMDFM, the possibly misplaced ministerial confidence, and the ongoing cost of Executive crowd-pleasing as the NI water crisis continues.  From the Sunday Times article

Murphy and his colleagues are making the most of the inherited nature of their difficulties. Yet, knowing the risks, the DUP/Sinn Féin-led administration did little to improve the situation.

There was some limited investment in the water system in order to avoid a European Union fine, but overall the emphasis was on economies. NIW has absorbed 300 redundancies in the past year, and was ordered to cut planned investment by about £100m by the regulator.

NIW handed back £21m to Stormont at year end.

Elsewhere in the UK, investment in the water infrastructure was achieved by selling off the water companies and charging rates. Instead of privatising NIW, a government-owned company that cannot borrow money against its assets or float shares like its English equivalents, Murphy wants to nationalise it.

The Northern Ireland executive is committed not to introduce water rates until at least 2014, a crowd pleaser introduced in its first budget. It has now become a shibboleth and is touted as evidence that devolution works. As a result, NIW has to be subsidised from other assembly budgets to the tune of £500m a year. From next year, capital charges of an additional £400m a year can be deducted from the Northern Ireland block grant by the Treasury unless the government agrees to forgo the sum, which seems unlikely.

This is a subject that nobody likes to mention, but it has been brought into sharp focus by the failure of the water system so close to next May’s assembly election. The proximity of that election is also why Sinn Féin and the DUP have reacted with a mix of denial and pulpit thumping.

Read the whole thing.

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  • Cynic2

    This must be the most shameful episode since the start of devolution. It has exposed the sheer breath taking ineptitude and lassitude of the devolved Government. Help was available but we now know was never sought. A dysfunctional agency and Ministers who are either away from their posts or might as well have been for all the impact they had on events.

    And now we see the electoral issues kicking in. Murphy cannot afford to see McKenzie go as it will leave him too exposed. Martry cant afford to expose Murphy because there’s an election coming up and, while West Belfast remains a cert, with Gerry gone it would be difficult if all those voters who froze and were parched were to think twice about going out to vote SF. Robinson appears mentally disengaged and unfocused – perhaps from the effects of spending Christmas in the bosom of his family or perhaps deliberately just letting SF swing in the wind for advantage.

    And then there will be the inquiry to be shunted well back beyond the election and stuffed with carefully appointed former senior civil servants who will fully understand the difficulties faced by Ministers and NIW is having to actually DO something – and at Christmas too ….most unfortunate!!.

    What a sorry, sorry mess. Is this what we want from a Government? Is that what we are prepared to put up with?

  • DC

    Collectively it looks like a failure to prioritise spends at NI Executive level and for SF – a failure in spotting the right time to make much needed investment – despite all those years’ worth of repeated warnings.

    As Liam says, it’s a failure to take those much needed difficult decisions after 30 years of neglect and damage; perhaps both parties wont take difficult decisions because neither treats elected politics like elected politics. They see it as a career and try to extend the 4 years to 30 years or so (like Peter Robinson), rather than respect the gift given by the people to the parties to do what is right and responsible and do it over an electoral term of 4 years.

    I’m not sure if SF are using elected politics here also to show their credentials to govern generally and to boost the party’s standing in the Republic – so not just career politics, vanity politics of the nationalist kind?

    IF that’s the case the option of privatisation could have been ruled out because it could damage SF’s socialist credentials in the republic, or rates weren’t raised because that too could damage that party’s electoral brand – same goes for the DUP; I wonder if both parties knew of or had statistics and policy advice from NI Civil Service and NIW suggesting that much more money was needed but despite it – did nothing? The consequences of that today: people go without water.

    SF: failure to deliver on education, failure to do the basics: to provide water to people in NI. Sinn Fein should change its party name to: Despite Ourselves.

    And if SF and the DUP are not capable of delivering water to people then in my view they’re not fit to look after and deal with all the thousands of young people wasting away on the unemployment lines here.

    So after all the murderous Troubles and battles over devolution and its implementation – it turns out that: “The way to screw up somebody’s life is to give them what they want.”

    ♫Don’t you know you better run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run

    Oh I said you better run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run

    Finally the tables are starting to turn♫

  • There isn’t a party in the Assembly who would want to privatise NI Water – the price of investment in GB has been lack of accountability.

    Can we put to rest once and for all the idea that NI Water is taking money away from other departments? Rather, it is the case that by rights if water charges are brought in, the regional rates should be reduced by an equal amount to compensate since that is how we have paid for our water since 1973.

    The notion that we have been undercharged is no excuse, as Direct Rule ministers and local ministers have had 37 years to sort that out.

  • PS: DC, do you think that any form of administrative incompetence would ever stop people voting for the biggest two parties? As long as NI votes for sectarian politics, they can make whatever sort of idiotic mess they like with impunity.

  • CW

    I know this is off-topic but could we have a post on the late great actor Pete Postlethewaite who has just died of cancer at the relatively young age of 64?

    Folks from this neck of the woods will probably remember him best for his role as Giuseppe Conlon in In the Name of the Father, Jim Sheridan’s account of the Guildford 4 saga. But his roles in Brassed Off, The Usual Suspects and the Constant Gardener, among many other films and TV shows form the last 30 years are also worth noting.

  • 241934 john brennan

    The pen is mightier than the sword. Our water supply withstood the effects of loyalist and republican bombs – but now?

    Well dodgy contracts and bad plans drawn up and approved at expensive strokes of the pen -by government ministers, consultants and civil servants, have done what the bombs faile to do – decimated the whole system

  • DC

    @do you think that any form of administrative incompetence would ever stop people voting for the biggest two parties? As long as NI votes for sectarian politics, they can make whatever sort of idiotic mess they like with impunity.

    Not at the moment, which is why I’m in favour of privatisation – it bypasses all of this nonsense and will mean people should have water as and when they need it, or at least better delivered than is currently the case.

    I’m thinking privatised along service delivery lines than outright private ownership – in a similar way Capita is running HRConnect and is doing the HR for NI Civil Service under a contract that has both a fixed period and cost.

    If it goes wrong in that Capita mismanage or fail to deliver on the technology side – the contract can be collapsed – and also targets are built into the contract and are monitored over the length of the contract. But most importantly – overall price is fixed. So no more is paid than what otherwise would have been the cost if it were publicly run over the same length of time.

  • DC

    If NI had a smaller, more sensible and refined government both in style and processes, I would definitely be inclined to go the other way – keep services in public hands; trouble is in NI – many public services are not actually run nor staffed in line with common ownership and its ethos – that is to say many organisations have community imbalances and a lot are services not directly in public hands, they are therefore not accountable. For instance, a lot have gone over to Quangos and commissions and agencies etc. And, a lot of Commissions certainly do not meet “common ownership” credentials in terms of reflecting the whole community they purport to serve.

    Bascially, the whole Stormont system is rigged up this way – it is frit – systemically prone to mediocrity and inertia – and it would require a political party to designate as both communities and to use tactics of cross-house voting to reduce the significance of identifying as Unionist and Nationalist.

    And so far there are none wishing to use those tactics as part of a bigger longer term strategy to do away with designations and sectarian politics. They’d rather opt out and go into the “Other” camp. But, that’s another example of massive failure in political leadership.

  • Cynic2

    The problem we collectively face is that those we elect offer us no alternatives. They are all left of centre and continually feed of the teat of British taxpayer subsidy. The British (and any other ) taxpayers wont let this continue indefinitely.

    To persuade us all to stop killing each other we have developed this bloated administration with literally hundreds of politicians at Stormont and in Councils, all squabbling over the swill trough and squeaking if they think that thmuns have got an ounce more than ouruns. This system is supported by layer upon layer of public servants.

    All of this for what, in effect is the function of a large county council serving a population of just 1.6 million. Yes – just 1.6 million. It really is laughable.

    This is bloated and inefficient. Even if the many and varied organs of Government were run efficiently (and heavens they are not) we simply cannot afford it, nor can Westminister.

    Just why do local councils and Government here have to actually run leisure centres, empty bins, sweep the roads, fix potholes, deliver meals on wheels, transport non emergency patients, run the buses, provide the water, run events? Why does each local council need to have its own separate units for everything from HR to managing dog fouling?

    If the NIW fiasco shows us anything its that this model does not work. Period. And that our esteemed ministers are incapable of making it work. So lets be radical. Wipe it out – all of it.

    Have a unitary system of Government with one Assembly managing it all – buying in all those services it can and only managing internally those which it cannot contract out. Lets have a Government where the money is spent on the services not their administration!

    Of course this will never happen. Our Leaders are just too comfortable. There are nice offices to fill. Ministerial limos to run. Expenses to be claimed and client groups to be satisfied with their ‘rightful share’ of the jobs. At heart they are all good Socialists – provided its someone else’s money funding it.

    So we will muddle on with more grotesque failures like the last few weeks. We will have more NIWs, health service scandals, EU fines, poor education, poverty, poor housing because , quite simply, we cannot be bothered or get angry enough to make them change.

    Of course the occasional civil service goat will be tethered to a post and ritually executed (usually consoled by a pension stuffed in its hip pocket). We all need the circuses alongside the free bread.

    Meanwhile our Ministers will continue to tell us how wonderful we are, how well they are doing and how lucky we are to have the opportunity to vote for them. And we will accept it because, while we actually know how bad they are, we also know that they aren’t one of themuns , so that’s alright then.

  • danidiot

    I think I heard mention that Sammy Wilson didnt attend the ’emergency’ Executive meeting. Why not?

  • joeCanuck

    AndyB and others have correctly pointed out that people are already paying for water through their rates. The point is, however, that they haven’t been paying enough. They would appear to be paying the operational costs but no provision is being made for capital expenditure for infrastructure maintenance and improvements.

  • In which case Joe, why isn’t the money we put in via the regional rate being put into infrastructure? If it isn’t, then why have ministers neglected this since 1973?

    DC, Capita have not delivered on HRConnect. They are ineffective, inefficient, and the system they have provided is neither up to scratch nor remotely fit for purpose. It’s atrocious. Try dealing with them as a Civil Servant, and watch what DFP does about them – nothing, and that is probably because they asked for the wrong thing in the contract in the first place. Even the most basic things, such as the efficiencies expected by centralising most HR functions and replacing the long outdated PSMB system have failed to deliver an improved customer service, and deadlines for changes to the payroll seem to be the same as they were before HRConnect was implemented.

    You are also very optimistic in thinking that a private firm will come in with a contract matching the spend profile in the current Assembly plans. It may do initially, but shortcomings in the initial tender process will doubtless lead to additions to the contract for things that could have been foreseen.

    You may think I am very cynical about the tender process in NICS. Perhaps I’m right.

  • The point for Joe is that by charging the amount they have, the Assembly and Direct Rule Ministers have consistently sent the message “This is all the money we need to run your water and sewerage services!”

    It is completely unfair to mismanage the country for 37 years and then turn round and say “We have been misleading you for decades regarding the amount it costs to provide a decent water service. Please give us more money now to do what we should have done in the first place.”

  • backstage

    Well said Cynic2….couldn’t have put it better. Our MLAs are a bunch of social conservatives and economic lefties, happy to be dependent on handouts from Westminster to avoid having to take responsibility for tough decisions and answering to the NI electorate. Responsibility for raising government income (at least in part) might encourage some serious politics in NI.

    What the NIW debacle confirms is the horror of the 4-way coalition. Since there’s no Opposition these guys simply protect each other when the chips are down in a selfish spirit of self-preservation. What makes it worse is that none of them will vote to change this system that gives them such an easy ride.

  • DC

    @AndyB’s – try dealing with them as a Civil Servant

    You’re coming at this one from the the wrong way.

    Of course civil servants don’t like it because their management tools have been taken off them.

    Gone are the days of the old hierarchies conducting their own investigations – not a chance now of protecting asses. Capita does it – and not with one ounce of loyalty to senior managment or respecter of grade orientated working environments and such circumstances.

    If you’re an AO and say an SO or even DP maybe even G7 does something that is operationally out of line or treats you unfairly – raise your grievance and call in Capita or HRConnect, in place for performance issues and behavioural concerns that get in the way or limit better performance, regardless of who it is interfering; HRConnect whatever you claim of it is most certainly not there to protect those NI Civil Service vested interests.

    Who do you want investigating your complaint a bunch of public sector managers conscious of each other’s grade and conscious of loyalty to a unit or organisation so as to maintain their careers – or a private company tasked with performance management based on operations, rather than grade hierarchies?

  • eamonderry

    From Eamonn McCann
    “Since there’s no Opposition these guys simply protect each other when the chips are down in a selfish spirit of self-preservation. What makes it worse is that none of them will vote to change this system that gives them such an easy ride.”

    Well, of course not. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us cannot vote to change the system – for example by voting in May for People Befopre Profit in the constituencies where candidates will be standing. Which reminds me of the PBPA New Year message, sent to every media outlet in the land. You can’t have missed it. But just in case…

    “Stormont Needs A Real Opposition in 2011”

    The priority for the People Before Profit Alliance in 2011 will be to encourage and help organise resistance to the Stormont/Westminster cuts. This will mean, for the first time, providing a real Opposition at Stormont.
    No working class family in the North will be left unscathed as the cuts take effect and the economy remains in the doldrums.
    Thousands of public sector workers are threatened with redundancy, while the rest face a pay freeze. Meanwhile, a 2.5 percent VAT rise will lift overall inflation towards five percent.
    Students fear the removal of the Education Maintenance Allowance and a huge hike in tuition fees.
    House repossessions will rise as families fall into negative equity while rent and mortgage benefits are slashed.
    Services for the elderly and the disabled have already been cut back. Welfare benefits will be cut in April.
    Private sector employers are taking the opportunity to push wages down and worsen conditions.
    Workers are hampered in defending themselves by Thatcher’s anti-union laws, now operated by Stormont.
    We are facing a year of rising unemployment, falling real wages and deterioration of the services the most vulnerable depend on.
    The outlook for workers and working class communities is gloomy. But there are reasons to be cheerful, too. We have seen in 2010 that resistance can work.
    The attempt by the DUP and Sinn Fein to curtail the right to protest was defeated when the certainty of civil rights demonstrations against them forced the abandonment of the Assemblies Bill.
    Water charges remain off the agenda because massive numbers of people have continued to make clear they’d refuse to pay them.
    The student demonstrations have made EMA and tuition fees a hot potato for the Executive.
    Direct action by the Derry Anti War Coalition finally drove the Raytheon arms company out of Derry.
    In all these instances, grass-roots organisation yielded results when more conventional methods had proven futile.
    We will carry the same radical, campaigning spirit into the Assembly and local elections in May, speaking out loudly for people in the bottom half of society, irrespective of the community they come from. We will judge every issue according to its impact on working-class people – not on how it affects the balance between Orange and Green.
    What Stormont needs most in 2011 is an effective Opposition. An Assembly in which 105 of 108 members come from government parties is a sham. We will provide a real alternative within the Assembly, and we will use the clout and credibility of membership of the Assembly to encourage grass-roots resistance outside.
    The sham of Stormont is seen in the efforts of Executive parties to blame rival Executive parties for cuts endorsed by the Executive as a whole. This isn’t serious politics, but play-acting. It hampers the emergence of a broad-based movement against cuts. Let 2011 be the year we get real, and create a genuine alternative to the ramshackle inefficiency of the current arrangement, all too evident over recent days. Public sector job losses and spending restrictions have been a major factor in the inability of the water service to respond to the cold-weather crisis.

  • joeCanuck


    I don’t have the answer. But it would appear from afar that there has been continual failure by senior managers, including Miniters or NIO executive,s to properly manage the company. A CEO, as well as ensuring the efficient running of her or his organization, should have a 25 year time frame. A considerable proportion of their time needs to be looking that far ahead and making provision for what will be needed well into the future.

  • tacapall

    I doubt Sinn Fein have to worry about losing any nationalist votes over this, most Sinn Fein voters are politically astute and wont fall for the lynch mobs calls for vengeance. We already pay for water in our rates obviously we didn’t get what we paid for as “no one” who was in charge of NIW, Conor Murphy and all the Unionists before him, including the British government didn’t upgrade the system when they knew it was unsuitable for the 21st century.

    Heres a nice picture and article you might like Pete.

  • Cynic2

    “the price of investment in GB has been lack of accountability”

    …. total tripe. What ‘accountability’ have we seen here?

  • Cynic2

    It gets worse

    UK Water had resources available to help NIW but wasn’t asked until New Years’s Eve because NIW did not understand the extent of the help that might be available.

  • malairt

    @ 241934 john brennan

    Please point to:
    1/ A well dodgy contract
    2/ A contract that had an adverse effect on NIW’s capability to cope with the recent freeze/thaw.

    @ AndyB
    How is there a lack of accountability in GB for the water companies? They are closely controlled by OFWAT and WICS who try their damndest to restrict the margins made at the same time as requiring ever increasing efficiencies. OFWAT made mistakes in the first 10 years but they’ve got their act together now.

    I don’t understand your point on funding for NIW. NIW is funded out of DRD’s budget and has to fight for monies against other priorities within DRD and within the whole of the NICS. Extra money given to NIW is money taken off the budgets of other departments. Within the existing system, the only way out is to increase the overall budget – and that’s not going to happen. And to say that 37 years of underfunding is no excuse is a bit bizarre – that’s the very point!

    So there needs to be an extra source of revenue, a charge, or a tax, to increase the overall budget and allow NIW to invest for the future. It also needs to be visible so that people can see what they’re paying and what they’re getting for their cash and to avoid politicians dipping their hand in for wee projects.

    @DC – your 3:43 post. NIW made it very clear in its PC10 submission what capital investment it considered necessary – with most of the work being done before MacKenzie got involved. As is well known NIAUR slashed the PC10 submissionto ribbons, thoroughly demoralising the NIW management team, as non-experts told NIW to improve efficiencies to English levels without a reasonable learning period.

    I think part of the tension between the Board, DRD and MacKenzie arose from the debate on how to tackle NIAUR’s ludicrous impositions.

  • Cynic2

    ” most Sinn Fein voters are politically astute and wont fall for the lynch mobs calls for vengeance”

    I agree. They and the DUP voters will vote ‘their man’ in to keep themmus out no matter how bad or incompetent he is……. unless of course they aren’t happy with issues around his wife

  • tacapall

    Cynic2 “They and the DUP voters will vote ‘their man’ in to keep themmus out no matter how bad or incompetent he is……. unless of course they aren’t happy with issues around his wife”

    You take a pessimistic view of why people vote for the DUP and Sinn Fein, is it the same for UUP, SDLP, Alliance and TUV voters? Look around the world, at Britain, Europe, Austrialia, America all hit by extreme weather that they never expected instead of asking questions about future weather patterns and whats happening people are trying to score cheap political points.

  • 241934 john brennan

    Eamonderry : Do you not think we have had more than enough of protest politics? When we got fed up with the antics of the biggest protest parties – the DUP and Sinn Fein – demonstrating and counter demonstrating, while people were being terrorized, evicted, maimed, imprisioned and killed – we invented the peace process and put them into government.

    We now have peace of a sort. However, the sf/DUP DUOPOLY has proved the worst imaginable form of government – but the last thing we need now is more revolutionaries and more revolution

    “You can never have a revolution to establish a democracy. You must have a democracy in order to have a revolution.”

    In recent times our two greatest social democrats are/were your fellow Derry men, John Hume and Mark Durkan. In that tradition the SDLP has now democratically given us Destiny’s Child – and we would do well to follow her in the same sane pathway – leading us to the SDLP,s well signposted promised land (democracy, equality and a shared society) – and we will make better progress when present sectarian madness subsides below the levels of in-your-face intolerance.

  • malairt [re. 8:00 pm]

    At that September 2, 2009 meeting Laurence MacKenzie ‘acknowledged that NIW must deliver efficiencies but said that a balance needed to be made with regard to timeframes if this was to be done correctly’.

    What is your interpretation of his comments? Is he highlighting an underlying risk in the NIAUR recommendations or is he opposing pressure from the Minister and DRD officials to have these recommendations followed or is there an alternative explanation?

  • 241934 john brennan

    Did not Conor Murphy fire a couple WB directors because of some irregularities in contract procedures – resulted in unnecessary large leakages of money?

  • Cynic2


    Weather is unpredictable. But how much of the rest of the UK has been affected to this extent?

    And open your eyes. Even if you accept that the weather isn’t NIW and DRD’s ‘fault’ the response certainly is. It has been utterly shambolic.

    Today’s revelations now show that two weeks into a major crisis – yes crisis – NIW still hadn’t sought help from UK Water because they misread what might be available. They could not understand their own documentation and presumably there was noone left in the company who knew what to do or how to access help or had the wit to pick up a phone and ask. Do you really want to defend that?

    I heard the UK Water rep today saying that within 3 hours (yes 3 Hours) of NIW ‘s request, they had sourced them additional call centre capacity (70 operators) to help customer get through on the phone lines that had been blocked for two weeks!

    This isn’t some act of God. It isn’t a freak of nature. Its a shameful lack of planning and management

    And when in the middle of this mess stand tens of thousands of people cut off from water for up to two weeks it isnt a “cheap political point” – it is – or should be – a resignation issue no matter what party the Minister is from.

  • malairt

    [i] It was established that the Alliance contract was giving some smaller contractors cause for concern. Laurence MacKenzie acknowledged that NIW must deliver efficiencies but said that a balance needed to be made with regard to timeframes if this was to be done correctly.[/i]

    This is conjecture as those who were there aren’t talking. There are 2 separate points, (badly) edited to look like one.

    First point: I think the Alliance contract referred to is the Engineering Alliance which was taking shape at that point. There was a lot of concern that NIW was going to award its capital programme to one or two big contractors, maybe from GB, and there would only be crumbs for the local firms (that was never going to happen).

    Second point: there was a lot of debate within NIW on what should be bid for as part of PC10. The bid had to demonstrate to the Regulators (Environment, NIAUR, CCNI etc) that there was seriousness about trying to catch up with the GB water companies, it had to be owned by the management team as a realistic figure that continued to catch up with decades of neglect, and it had to meet the aspirations of a DRD nervous about meeting requests for money that were not funded and were unlikely to be as water charges were most unlikely to happen. The PC10 bid was seen as a good compromise that attempted to satisfy all parties concerned.

    What MacKenzie is referring to is the need to be seen to be making short term, especially Operational, savings, to satisfy the obvious desire of the NIAUR to transform the company into a leading water company in the UK quicker than had ever been managed before. But he warned the assembled worthies that cutting too quick, too fast would damage NIW’s capability to deliver NI’s most essential service. In saying that he was reflecting the view of his senior team.

    This is in September, 1 month into the job. Later, I believe, he became much more aggressively on side with the Regulator and DRD.

  • malairt

    @ john brennan

    Mr. Murphy fired 4 non execs, including the chairman.

    If you look at the NIW Internal Audit report, the Independent Review Team report, and the NIAO report you will find a list of procurement irregularities which don’t amount to a row of beans in terms of adverse financial impact on NIW. In most cases the irregularity is minor and procedural: where it is not, the financial impact is a matter for conjecture, either positive and negative.

  • 241934 john brennan

    In my time with HM government “an internal audit …. reporting a few minor procedural irregularities”, would have resulted only in an amended Job Instruction Sheet for a lowly Administrative Assistant – or a mild rebuke if the instructions were already clear and correct.

    Certainly “a minor procedural irregularity” would not have been reported very far up the line. Unless there was a Parliamentary Question, it wouldn’t have got anywhere near the Minister. Even in that case a “standard reply”, drafted by a lowly Executive Officer, vetted and signed by someone more senior, would have sufficed.

    Perhaps I was lucky to work for “the Imperial Civil Service” as opposed to the “Northern Ireland Civil Service” – less drama and skullduggery!

  • malairt

    I think a lot of people would like to know what was behind the actions that took place in March 2010. It can’t have been simply a reaction to an Internal Audit Report that the Board at that point hadn’t seen.

  • Cynic2

    “a lot of people would like to know what was behind the actions that took place in March 2010”

    ……. there is a very simple explanation and as soon as I can think of it I will let you know

  • 241934 john brennan

    “50% of water pumped from reservoirs is wasted through leakage”. Whenever, and for whatever, we are paying, we expect 100% delivery. Would we pay for 10 litres of petrol if the pump only delivered 5?

  • Cynic2

    Wow…what a sea of yellow.

    How did I break the rules please Mick?

  • tacapall

    Cynic why dont you go to the Pat Sheehan posts and see.

  • Cynic2

    I have done. You played the man. I asked you what you meant by your offensive comments. I got yellow carded.

  • Cynic2

    My apologies …it wasn’t you it was Mark who made the man playing comments. You just joined in for the ride but your comment were perfectly fine and within the rules.

  • William Markfelt

    BBC reporting speculation over McKenzie’s future, with the board meeting on Tuesday to discuss it (or lack of it).

    Laurence MacKenzie has been the focus of media attention during the crisis.

    ‘Asked if Mr Mackenzie had offered to resign in the past few days, a company spokesman would only say the chief executive’s focus is to continue to deal with the incidents around water shortages.

    He added that Mr McKenzie had made clear that issues in relation to his future would be considered when the incident was closed and that point had not been reached.

    Mr Mackenzie, along with other senior managers, is due to appear before Stormont’s regional development committee on Thursday’

    Is a statement on the back of this meeting expected soon? Next couple of hours? When can we expect the first of our new year wishes to achieve fruition?

  • malairt

    Offer him 3 months salary to go no matter what his contract says and see if he takes it. Tell him that’s a generous settlement in the circumstances and have a non-disclosure agreement drawn up and ready to go. Not that he pays much attention to NDA’s unless it suits him.

  • Mark


    ” my apologies … it wasn’t you it was mark who made the man playing comments ” .

    Cynic2 , maybe inadequate was too harsh a word and if you got offended I apologise .

    I tried to explain where i was coming from last night . Your reaction to immediately start listing off incidents willy nilly doesn’t get anyone anywhere . I got the impression you were’nt willing to listen to what Pat Sheehan had to say regardless . And because of that , i thought maybe Cynic2 feels a little threatened by the man . If I am wrong and it’s just you’re cynical by nature , well that’s up to you ………… .

  • Cynic2

    I’m cynical by nature but my real point was this.

    Accepting the past and learning to live together doesn’t mean accepting that what was done – on whatever side was right or justified. WE need to build a shared future but the current model promulgated by SF and the DUP involves parallel trenches in which we live sepertate lives and snipe at each other smug in our self-satisfaction that we were right all along

    It does seem to me that Pat Sheehan’s interview is strongly in that vein. What was done by PIRA wasn’t more civilised by choice. It was as bad as they could get away with. The same goes for the loyalists. Attempts to put some spurious gloss on it just make it harder for all sides to move on.

  • Cynic2

    So what’s the betting on the Board asking for or getting a resignation?

    Or will they express confidence in the management team just like the Minister?

    Or intone that ‘ we were all to blame and we need to learn and move on’ ?

  • Cynic2

    Strangely the Andytown News – usually a great follower of stories about the misdeed of Government Agencies – seems to have a more nuanced editorial line on this one.

    It appears that in North Belfast it wuz Jack Frost who is to blame and should be strung up. And the benificient NIW was handing out water from its depots to all and sundry to ease their plight. This is accompanied by a picture of said workers (one with fag hanging out of mouth) doling out water to the needy.

  • Mark


    I accept that Cynic2 and I know it’s is easier for somebody from Dublin to ask that we all make up . But your spurious gloss is someone else’s proud memory and that’s never going to change . In the context of the thread , maybe Pat Sheehan was playing to a specific audience but we both know the boots he’s trying to fill are huge . It’s a very hard balancing act . You did leave out the British Govt and they are anything but innocent in all this .

    I think the fact that ex republican and loyalist prisoners have taken such different paths is a bone of contention for some people . I mean , changing the world with Nasty Nick is so much harder than changing the North .

    Cynic2 , on a personal level , I have an emotional and professional interest in what continues to happen and it is always with the utmost respect that I post on any local issue on Slugger . It might not seem like that but it is .

  • Cynic2


    I don’t doubt it and I probably share that – as do others here., That’s why there’s sometimes more heat than light so if I have annoyed you at any point or been impolite I am equally sorry

    In any case now that I have got used to my yellow badge I am quite proud of it. Brings a little colour into my otherwise leaden political life. Adds a little mental frisson – like a 50 year old buying a leather jacket , jar of Brylcream and sports car

    I now understand why ASBOs don’t work.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘Offer him 3 months salary to go’

    No. Draft his resignation letter for him in terms favourable to NIW and insist on his immediate departure. By 5pm sort of thing. No pay off. No dirty deals. No ‘disclosure’ caveats.

    Just get rid of him.

    He has been a liability for the entire duration of 2010 and has overstayed his welcome in NIW or in any other work place. He is poisoned goods, and the NIA’s failure to get rid of him months ago speaks volumes for the failure of both that (mental) institution and the Minister. Murphy now needs to go too.

  • Mark


    I can certainly vouch for the leather jacket and one other and I think I’ll leave it at that ………

  • Big Maggie

    I don’t visit Slugger much these days but today was an exception.

    Will somebody please explain this “Yellow Card” stuff.

    Is it similar to a Nectar Card, and do I get one when I’ve submitted a certain number of comments?

  • Mark

    LOL .

  • Mark

    Big Maggie ,

    Re the yellow card stuff .

    Yellow card – your first warning , 24 hours with yellow card beside your name but you keep your posting priviledges .

    Red card – One week ban with no privilidges and red card beside name .

    Black card – Your gone indefinately .

    That’s it Mick isn’t it ?

  • 241934 john brennan

    Who says daft comments on Slugger O’Toole don’t work.?
    I made a silly comment about playing John O’Dowd as sweeper behind Conor Murphy -(not Catriona). Today he is doing just that on the Nolan show