What Austerity is what it isn’t (and, really how not to haggle)…

Now, notwithstanding the sage advice of Chris Dillow that “understanding support for austerity requires not an economist but a psychologist”, here’s Newton Emerson to duly report that whatever Northern Ireland is suffering, it sure ain’t austerity: HNIW9 from The Detail on Vimeo. There’s the narrow case that Newton makes here, but to that you can add the fact that the Treasury has been quietly doing what Greece has been requesting which is quietly restructuring Northern Ireland’s debt to release up …

Read more…

This set of sensible recommendations subverts any notion that wellbeing might be cast as an abstract, woolly or unobtainable aspiration

20130417 Political Drama IMG_2009

When Health Minister Simon Hamilton and Finance Committee Chair Daithí McKay speak at Carnegie UK Trust’s important wellbeing gathering tomorrow, their appearance will provide further evidence that the holistic agenda continues to boast substantial support across party and department. It has not been proceeding in a vacuum. As the debate around welfare continues its stubborn impasse, wellbeing appears less stricken. Both Hamilton and McKay, co-patrons of Carnegie’s engagement with the political establishment in this regard, have demonstrated a keen interest …

Read more…

Not all the zombies are politicians. This is also civil society’s failure

Not so long ago, Northern Ireland  politics were conducted in a seething cauldron. Today they’re in zombieland.  Nobody seems to know what sort of situation is facing  Northern Ireland in the  forthcoming days, weeks and months. Your starter for 10. Is it bailout, surrender or just staggering on?   At home, nobody can be bothered even to do an informed analysis of the costs of continuing denial. Malachi, like myself no economist,  is no better informed but is properly  uneasy .  In …

Read more…

Northern Ireland Water charges to rise…

As the BBC reported on 27 March Northern Ireland Water is putting up charges to its 80,000 non-domestic customers from April – the first price rise in three years. The company said the increase would average out at 2.4%. The main factor “dictating this increase” is a £14m rise, or doubling, of its rates bill, following a revaluation carried out of all local businesses last year. In the previous two financial years, Northern Ireland Water cut its tariffs. Businesses and …

Read more…

What can government engagement with ‘well-being’ bring to community confidence?

‘Well-Being’ is an odd term. It offends my grasp of the English language, in that I was never taught a verb: ‘to wellbe – I wellbe, you wellbe, he, she, it wellbes…’, nor even the slightly less gauche hyphenated ‘well-be’. Nevertheless, it has entered the policy lexicon, and is surely preferable to the simplistic concept of ‘happiness’, much beloved of tabloid editors, as they print interminable lists of towns, cities and regions making their citizens more or less happy / …

Read more…

Details emerging on Translink fare rises

Hat tip to Martin Baumann, who sent me this photograph of a poster today. I’m still waiting to hear, as are all of us, what the impact in cash terms will be on Ulsterbus and Metro, beyond a statement in December that Metro cash fares (and by extension the three lowest Ulsterbus fares) would go up by 10p each – it isn’t clear, for example, whether Metro smartlink fares will also rise by 10p. Where I want to start the …

Read more…

Gormley wins libel case against Sinn Fein

The BBC reports the jury verdict in Declan Gormley’s, a former non-executive director of NI Water, libel case against Sinn Féin, the party’s Newry and Armagh MLA Cathal Boylan, and former assembly member Willie Clarke.  From the BBC report Declan Gormley sued the party over the contents of two press releases it issued in 2011 in support of his sacking from the NIW Board. The party denied the press releases were defamatory, but the jury found the party had acted with malice. High …

Read more…

“the outcome of the tribunal had effectively branded him as “sectarian” and “a liar”…”

So no surprise that Sinn Fein are training some big guns on Conor Murphy’s successor at DRD, Danny Kennedy for deciding not to appeal the Equality Commission’s Fair Employment Tribunal’s ruling against the South Armagh MP… As Mr Murphy told the BBC, it leaves him in an invidious position: The Sinn Fein representative told the BBC that the outcome of the tribunal had effectively branded him as “sectarian” and “a liar” and said he did not intend to let the …

Read more…

“the tribunal finds the minister’s evidence is implausible and lacks credibility” [Updated]

If you thought the controversy around NI Water and the then NI Regional Development Minister, Conor Murphy, MP, MLA, had gone away, think again.  The BBC reports that an industrial  tribunal has found that Alan Lennon, a Protestant overlooked for the post of chairman of NI Water in March 2011, was discriminated against on religious grounds.  From the BBC report In March 2011, Mr Murphy appointed a Catholic as chairman, Sean Hogan, ahead of four others shortlisted after interview, all …

Read more…

NI Water: Another Chief Executive resignation?

The BBC’s Jim Fitzpatrick reports that NI Water Chief Executive, Trevor Haslett, has “signalled that he wants to leave and return to private consultancy”.  Haslett has been in the post for almost 10 months, after stepping into the vacancy caused by the defenestration of former Chief Executive Lawrence MacKenzie.  From the BBC report NI Water was created as a state-owned company in 2004 with Ms Bryan at the helm and its structure suggested that it would ultimately be privatised. But the devolved government …

Read more…

One Civil Service code for ‘the Indians’, but another for ‘the Chiefs’?

Mark Upton, who used Twitter to ‘tease’ Conservative ministers using the nom de guerre “naked civil servant” was suspended last week after a seven-month investigation by the Department for Communities and Local Government from his job. Mr Upton, a grade six Civil Servant has leave to make an appeal, but it would seem he has been found in breach of a unambiguous breach of the civil service code: “Impartiality – acting solely according to the merits of the case and …

Read more…

NI Water: Mr Priestly to return to work, but the issue rumbles on?

So Mr Priestly, the former Permanent Secretary is to return to work, albeit as a deputy Permanent Secretary. His salary drops from £106,000 down to £92,000. It is not certain where he will be deployed. He was suspended for providing the text of a letter which was subsequently used by to attack the workings of the Public Accounts Committee by Peter Dixon (also a non exec of the DRD appointed Harbour Commissioners at the time) whose work as a member of an Independent …

Read more…

Declan Gormley launches multiple legal actions…

JUst when you thought it had gone away… Northern Ireland Water comes back. Declan Gormley, having waited for due process to recognise the shoddy manner in which he was dealt. He’s now speaking on Nolan. For clarity, here’s the presser: Former non-executive Director Declan Gormley is threatening new legal action against Minister Murphy and the DRD. Mr. Gormley has notified all of the relevant parties that he will proceed with misfeasance and defamation proceedings unless he receives a retraction and …

Read more…

Was NI Water rolling back poor departmental compliance rates?

The PAC’s report into Northern Ireland Water has to be one of the most comprehensive pieces of research, not only into a publicly owned utility, but into an insider government culture that brooks no dissent and treats whistleblowers with contempt. There is more than enough to keep Slugger going for the next fortnight, and yet beyond this excellent summation of the story by Sam McBride at the News Letter, the press have, by and large, let it slide. However, as …

Read more…

NI Water: Murphy’s department “undermined confidence in the integrity of the public sector”

Just clicking through the journalism  associated with Super Thursday’s report release day. That was the day the PAC’s report came out, and the regulator’s report.  Two remain outstanding: the Executive’s conflicted interest report; and Sir Jon Shortidge’s report into the conduct of Mr Murphy’s suspended Permanent Secretary. Of these the PAC’s is the more substantial, but guessing from this BBC report, few professional journalists seem to have actually read it. Interestingly the meaty stuff, which examines the serious misconduct of Permanent …

Read more…

PAC considers asking for members’ phone records to source leak…

Not sure how seriously to take this one, since the legal complications it might invoke would probably rule it out from any serious consideration. But on the eve of the publication of a major report from Stormont’s Public Accounts Committee, Slugger understands that some members of the PAC have been suggesting that the phone records of its members should be investigated in order to source the leak of an earlier draft version of that report to UTV on the goings …

Read more…

NI Water crisis: “once this information is in the public domain, it may undermine your perceived independence…”

Following an FOI request, BBC NI’s Stephen Walker reports that the NI Commissioner for Public Appointments, Felicity Houston, has raised concerns about the OFMDFM appointments to the latest ‘independent’ review of NI Water with the head of the NI Civil Service.  That’s in addition to the Commissioner’s previously expressed concern about the NI Regional Development Minister, Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy’s appointments to the interim NI Water Board. From the BBC report In a bizarre twist, staff assisting Phil Holder and Heather Moorhead’s …

Read more…

NI Commissioner for Public Appointments: “We couldn’t find out how people had ended up being interviewed…”

It’s worth highlighting the comments by the NI Commissioner for Public Appointments, Felicity Huston, to the BBC NI Spotlight programme last night on the NI Water saga.  From the BBC report Felicity Huston said: “I was a bit shocked about how chaotic it was considering the importance.” Mr Murphy said he had full confidence in the process. However, Ms Huston said it was one of several conducted by DRD she had found to be unsatisfactory. The chairman of NI Water, Chris Mellor, …

Read more…

“OFMDFM are aware of the issues raised…”

On Friday [evening? – Ed] the Northern Ireland First and deputy First Ministers issued a statement in response to concerns about their appointment of an individual to an ‘independent’ review who “could be perceived as having a conflict of interest.”  In particular, the appointment of Philip Holder to the second layer of the investigation into the role and responsibilities of the NI Regional Development Minister, and the Department, in the NI Water saga. From the OFMDFM statement OFMDFM are aware of the issues raised …

Read more…