The Civil Service and accountability
Sir, – As the Taoiseach embarks on a revenge mission against the Department of Justice, and leaving aside the illogic of blaming it for, in effect, temporarily postponing the untenability of the former tánaiste’s position, it opens up new and interesting possibilities.
The Civil Service has for many years been hampered by the overarching objective of protecting the minister of the day, even where the interests of the country and the interests of that minister might be tangential at best.
This symbiotic and long-standing “confidence and supply” relationship, providing bureaucrats with facelessness, looks to be coming to an end, and that is to be welcomed.
Civil servants should have a more defined set of responsibilities that explicitly excludes covering political posteriors.
Civil servants as servants of the State rather than the minister, would be required to implement government policy, deliver services to the public and provide impartial professional advice, whether it was welcome or not.
The minister, who would not be responsible for day-to-day administrative matters, would make the policy and political decisions and stand or fall on them.
Most civil servants would, I suspect, be quite happy to be held accountable for their actions in such circumstances. An additional benefit would be that far more TDs might expect to get a shot at being a minister. – Yours, etc,