Did Murphy mislead the public over ‘Golden Handshake’?

I have to say for those neutrals in any doubt that the Minister has serious questions to answer, try Jim Allister’s rather impressive briefing on the matter. It’s appropriate I think to highlight this note of serious concern that contains at least one outstanding and highly pertinent  detail of the last year in and around Northern Ireland Water:

In August 2010 the Shortridge inquiry was established to investigate the Paul Priestly issue. The report has been with the Head of the Civil Service for 2 months, effectively buried. Will the same happen here, on the premise that the more time passes, the more memories of Murphy and NIW’s failings will fade?

But yesterday’s post on his website asks the most pertinent questions of Mr MacKenzie’s resignation package:

In the space of just a few minutes on today’s ‘Nolan Show’ DRD Minister Murphy demonstrated shocking ignorance on the issue of the day. He, wrongly, advised the public that whether someone is sacked or resigns, they are still entitled to a package.

As malairt has pointed out in a previous comment zone, MacKenzie was not made redundant, since the job still exists, He was not sacked and we are being told he resigned of his own free will. So why did the Murphy appointed Board pay him anything at all?


  • malairt

    Slight typo there I think Mick.:
    * MacKenzie was not made redundant as the job still exists
    * He was not sacked, as he says he’s resigned
    * As he resigned he’s not due anything in compensation contractually
    * We know he’s negotiated a package because he’s told us that it’s been negotiated with the Board and now awaits ratification by the Minister.

  • DC

    @* MacKenzie was not made redundant as the job still exists

    It is still possible that MacKenzie’s post might not to be replaced and the Board centralised back into the Department in some way.

    Very unlikely, but it could be scrapped – of course there would then be no problems identifying ministerial responsibility then!

  • malairt

    Umm – you’d still need a head of NI Water, no matter if you didn’t say CEO

  • Lionel Hutz

    “Anyone dismissed for gross misconduct does not get a severance package, only those who leave by arrangement where their contract provides for such. Yet, we have a Minister dealing with these issues who hasn’t even grasped the basics. What hope for the protection of the public purse when such an incompetent is in charge”


    The first part of that is correct. But one has to be careful. If NIW had just sacked McKenzie, it would have been unfair and they would have been left liable for a alot of money. Murphy has said alot of stupid things over the last few days. However on the Nolan show, he made a good point in relation to gross misconduct and dismissal. That requires a significant investigation, particularly for a company with the resources of NIW. There are Statutory Disciplinary Procedures that must be followed. McKenzie would have a right to defend himself and the right to an appeal.

    Dismissal for Gross Misconduct just seems completely ridiculous in the context of this case. McKenzie is guilty of no misconduct whatsoever, not from what i can see. People are barking up the wrong tree.

    There is (or was) scope to consider dismissal for incompetence. However, that usually requires a warning to be given and so on. But even if that was a viable option, any contractual severance package would have to be paid.

    I hope as well that people note that when we talk of suspension, that would be on full pay which seems to be about £5k a week for McKenzie to sit and play his xbox.

    Im not sure there’s much of a story in the “severance package”. If there is any story, its probably more in the contract itself

  • Pigeon Toes

    No I would say he *attempted* to mislead the public. Nothing new there, with being a politician and all that.

  • The Word

    “In the space of just a few minutes on today’s ‘Nolan Show’ DRD Minister Murphy demonstrated shocking ignorance on the issue of the day. He, wrongly, advised the public that whether someone is sacked or resigns, they are still entitled to a package.”

    Must have been the last piece of advice that Lawrence gave him.

  • Cynic2

    Poor Mr Murphy. He believes everything his officials tell him

  • Nunoftheabove

    “In the space of just a few minutes on today’s ‘Nolan Show’ DRD Minister Murphy demonstrated shocking ignorance on the issue of the day. He, wrongly, advised the public that whether someone is sacked or resigns, they are still entitled to a package.”

    No, he didn’t say that. What he did say was that “people do have legal entitlements, contractual entitlements, even if they leave”.

    That’s not to say that Mckenzie isn’t entitled – contractually – to ‘something’ in the wake of his resignation. It’s not uncommon for executive contracts to have provisions covering what the employee is contractually entitled to in the even that they leave in any circumstances other than summary dismissal. What Murphy also said was that he would have any proposed terms on which Mckenzie was to leave scrutinised by legal and finance personnel so I don’t see what’s improper about that. He was quite clear that anything which Mckenzie would leave with would be the bare minimum legally allowable under the terms of his contract.

    My guess is that given the lengthy process that would be required to even go down the road of dismissal – and the inherent risk of failure in pursuing that – and the inevitable cost, whether it was successful or not – they will have considered his resignation as a blessing and, like any self-respecting employer, seek to honour the terms of the contract in the circumstances in a legal but minimally generous manner.

  • Pigeon Toes

    “Mr Dallat asked the Minister for Regional Development to detail the total amount of the severance package offered to the Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Water, on the announcement of her resignation on 20 May 2008.

    (AQW 7278/08)

    Mr C Murphy: The total amount of the severance package was £266,217.65. (This figure was made up of entitlements of one year’s salary, six months’ pay in lieu of notice and six months’ employer’s pension contribution in lieu of notice under the terms of the NICS Compensation Scheme.)”

  • And what sweet arrangements would a Mr C Murphy, or any of the newbie politicians/ministers in Stormont with offices and portfolios, with many of them having quite colourful, and even dodgy pasts, which would sit uneasy and be totally at odds with their present establishment positions, be expecting the public to finance should he walk/resign/be sacked for incompetence/lack of suitability and ability for high public office.

    Is there an excessive golden handshake and juicy pension provision agreed between all Parties, which to the public would appear to be extortionate and inequitable considering all of the above, and that which they would know of their own arrangements to be paid for by the state?

    Martin has been very quiet on the issue, as has Gerry, and it does not do Sinn Fein’s socialist/party of the people credentials any good whatsoever to be seen/perceived to be exactly that which they and their volunteers battled so hard and so long against. Judas and thirty pieces of silver springs to mind.

    Or is that far too harsh and too cynical a view/preview?

  • Nunoftheabove

    Does anyone know who has Assembly responsibility for the NICS compensation scheme, the terms of which appear to govern the terms and conditions of Mr McKenzie’s contract of employment, or at least those of his predecessor – presumably that sits within Finance & Personnel which would be Sammy Wilson’s bailiwick although conceivably those terms could be being set by central government rather than by the Assembly per se ?

  • amanfrommars – those on an industrial wage just get the sack, end of.

  • “The report has been with the Head of the Civil Service for 2 months, effectively buried.”

    Jim Allister was also involved in the Rathlin Ferry saga and that report has not been to the Committee for Regional Development for over 2 years; the CRD is still waiting for clearance from the Minister, according to the CRD chairman, Fred Cobain. Also, as Pigeon Toes has pointed out in another thread the Rathlin investigation cost £55,000, a figure at odds with the roughly £19,000 for an STA given in a recent answer by the Minister to Patsy McGlone.

  • Earlier muddy waters:

    The publicly-owned company would not clarify whether Katharine Bryan had resigned or been sacked or whether the money had already been paid to her.

    A spokesman for the firm said it had agreed a confidentiality agreement with Mrs Bryan which prevented either party commenting on the deal. ..

    Mr Dallat said: “The answer from the minister fails to explain why so much public money has been paid out in circumstances where we were told that the severing of relationships was by ‘mutual agreement’. News Letter 03 June 2008

  • Pigeon Toes

    Basically, here we again?

    So much of the NI Water appears to be like Ground-hog, but that is Northern Ireland politics for ya :-(((

  • Nunoftheabove

    That’s the point of a compromise agreement, it’s by mutual agreement, does not represent either a resignation or a dismissal and its terms are always non-disclosable.

    Sounds like certain people can’t make their mind up here about – or straightforwardly don’t know or understand – who is actually employing these people.

  • Paynoattentiontome

    Conor Murphy must be sacked, a family in Camlough (one of the members is suffering from leukemia) have been waiting over three weeks to get heating repaired. The Housing Executive were out again with them Friday and said that Maintenance would be there to finish the job, they didnt appear. A elderly ladys home in Bessbrook is flooded and still the Housing Executive havent come out to fix it. He is the local MP he should be sacked and hopefully somebody as capable as Alex Atwood will take over the role

  • joeCanuck

    Cynic 2,
    You are right about Murphy being naive in believing everything his officials tell hime; and not just officials. of course, old comrades in arms too.
    Regarding McKenzie’s “package”. There was really no alternative. It would have been a doozy of a court case if they tried to fire him for cause. So, since he would have got nothing if he resigned, they had to work out a compromise agreement to get him set up as the sacrificial goat.

  • Cynic2


    I disagree. That’s always the Civil Service argument. They should have offered him a choice. Go with no pay or we suspend, investigate and discipline.

    Sue all you want. With the compelling evidence of the last 4 weeks let’s see any court of tribunal find in his favour!

    The problem is that every lawyer will say, well you might lose Minister and then politicians and officials run a mile. As for you and me – we just pay for it.

    There is also a real concern here that there may be a convergence of interest here between both McKenzie and the Department in getting him out quickly and, above all quietly. Arent there a number of other cases in the pipeline arising of events last year?

  • Cynic2

    “NICS compensation scheme”

    That’s a red herring. McKenzie was never a civil servant

  • Nunoftheabove


    OK, who was/is his employer then and what terms governed his employment if not what appears to have governed those of his predecessor ?

  • malairt

    If anybody from NIW HR would like to comment I’m happy to be corrected but I believe MacKenzie would have been employed by Northern Ireland Water Ltd, as was everybody that joined NIW after it became a GoCo on 1 April 2007.

    So Katherine Bryan was on NICS terms but neither Chris Mellor nor MacKenzie were. Their CEO contracts would have been individually negotiated using a standard private sector template.

  • Pigeon Toes


    And now it becomes clear… Obviously MacKenzie has resigned, still should work out his six months notice. The Board want him gone immediately, and thus the “pay off” and compromise agreement.

    If only they had said that at the start…