Wednesday, 18 August 2010


Yesterday appears to be have been a good day for devolution.  Paul Priestly, the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Regional Development has been suspended from his job it seems because of his role in a letter that tried to frustrate the investigation of the Assembly's Public Accounts Committee.  With his minister describing his position as untenable it is hard to imagine how he can return.

If devolution was to make officials more accountable then one of them at the most senior level has been made just that.  The procurement issues at NI Water shouldn't be brushed under the rug but those problems don't justify the subsequent actions especially as regards the PAC.

Something of note is that Priestly spent a chunk of his career in the Northern Ireland Office.  His actions perhaps provide an insight into the NIO mentality towards local politicians and accountability.  It demonstrates an advantage of our flawed system of devolution over Direct Rule.  It is hard to imagine this process and official being subject to anything like the same scrutiny under Direct Rule.

UPDATE Mick Fealty highlights the rarity of the situation:

"For the first time in the history of Northern Ireland and only the second time in the history of the British Civil Service a Permanent Secretary has been suspended."

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