The ‘permanent government’


Sir, – John FitzGerald makes some interesting observations about the respective roles of the Civil Service and their political masters (“Public service reshuffles risk obstructing much-needed change”, Business Opinion, December 7th).

What he does not address, however, is the impact of the departmental agenda of the “permanent government”. The notion that it does not have one is certainly not borne out by my experience.

Take the Department of Local Government. It has had a clear agenda, no matter who the Minister is, of the ongoing dismantling of our local government system and the centralising of power. Some years ago we also had the extraordinary situation when the Minister for the Environment was opposed to incineration while his senior officials were busily planning the Poolbeg incinerator.

On a much more community based issue we have the community employment scheme – a simple community-led employment initiative – bedevilled by a red tape and bureaucracy never intended by Ministers.

From a distance, the distinction between executive management and strategic political leadership can look desirable; sadly for many citizens however, political intervention is necessary because while the elected government may design the pitch, the permanent government too often builds the goalposts to suit their own agenda. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 4.