Governing in the dark
Sir, – The institutional and political instinct against transparency, which has characterised the current Government’s term, is having a negative impact on this country.
We see this instinct in the planning of large capital projects, as in the case of the new National Maternity Hospital, where as negotiations were happening behind closed doors, the public, Opposition TDs, and interest groups were left to speculate whether a religious order (the Sisters of Charity) would be managing the provision of women’s health services for the decades to come.
We see it in the routine dragging of feet when it comes to the publishing of documents, as in the current dispute between the Department of Social Protection and the Data Protection Commissioner, where the Government has been delaying publishing the report and legal advice it received.
We see it in the decision-making process in particular departments, for example around the location of direct provision centres, where the Department of Justice decides by some internal process which rural communities will host the next group of asylum seekers.
As we have seen in the distasteful response in Oughterard to the proposed use of a former hotel as a centre, this opaque approach to governing breeds suspicion, mistrust and fear.
Furthermore it has a corrosive effect on public confidence in government.
This makes it more difficult to get buy-in on other important policies such as carbon pricing, because there is a lack of credibility and suspicion of motives.
We could and should be governing in the open, getting buy-in from community stakeholders, and proactively sharing information with and soliciting feedback from the public.
This is how you build consensus and establish government as a force for good in society, rather than some nefarious body constantly seeking to impose its will on citizens. – Yours, etc,