Public service and democratic institutions


Sir, – Fintan O’Toole in a thoughtful and worthwhile piece wrote about the importance of public service and the role of government in tackling inadequate services and public need (“Trump and Brexit are the result when government stops helping people”, Opinion & Analysis, June 20th). He questioned the motives of those who characterise regulation as red tape and action as interference. In theory he might be right. Sadly after serving for over 20 years as an elected public representative I can only demur from his confidence in much of our “public service” at senior levels and their ability or willingness to deliver for the public good.

The truth is we have interference where it is not needed. We have regulation where it obstructs. We have arrogance where we should have consultation, and we have downright hostility to democracy from some whose job it is to promote it.

As a citizen and as a social democrat, I believe in public service and the role of “the public service”. However that service must be guided by the public good and be accountable to the needs and wishes of the common good. It must operate from a position of respecting democracy and democratic institutions.

The truth is that over the last quarter of a century or so we have seen our democratic institutions relieved of power after power.

We have seen more unaccountable quangos assume more power and we have seen a media and commentariat giving more credence to the theories of the theorists than the experiences of the practitioners.

Sadly his prediction in relation to both the US and UK will apply in this country too if we all do not start determining that this is our country and that we should collectively decide its future. – Yours, etc,


Donnybrook, Dublin 4.