Civil Servants: Protecting politicians rather than serving the State

The Irish Mail on Sunday (MoS) is, rightly, focusing on the disgraceful behaviour of civil servants who dealt with the Ned O’Keeffe allegations of fraud.

Reading the report in today’s paper I could immediately identify with the deep frustration of dealing with a secretive, arrogant bureaucracy determined to protect the interests of their political overlords at all costs.

The overall feeling when dealing with these people is one of powerlessness, that no matter what the alleged wrongdoing, the system is always going to protect the politician.

More disturbingly, there is a rapidly developing culture of invincibility among civil servants that no matter how badly they get things wrong, no matter how damaging their behaviour is to the public good, there will be no consequences.

Back in 2007, for example, I rang Dublin City Council with a very simple question.

Was Fianna Fail TD, and then minister, Pat the Cope Gallagher fined for illegally erecting election posters?

Nine months later, after numerous phone calls, emails, letters and formal complaints I finally succeeded in getting an answer.

Here are some of the bizarre/arrogant responses I got from so-called civil servants.

Bernie Lillis of Dublin City Council told me that it was her personal office policy not to reveal such information. It was, she claimed, a personal matter between her office and the politician.

The Standards in Public Office Commission rejected my complaint on the grounds that the matter (breaking of the law by a government minister on two separate occasions) was not of sufficient gravity to warrant an investigation.

Donegal County Council replied to my formal complaint (sent by post) that they could not investigate the matter, as they had received no formal complaint.

4 thoughts on “Civil Servants: Protecting politicians rather than serving the State”

  1. I did submit a complaint to the Ombudsman in that case Haymoon.

    It was shortly after this submission that DCC deigned to answer my question. I suspect that the Ombudsman made a phone call and told them to cop themselves on.

    But you are right; it is disgraceful that a citizen has to go to enormous lengths over a period of nine months, including a formal complaint to the Ombudsman, to obtain an answer to a very simple question.

    What’s most disturbing is that this is not an isolated case, more and more civil servants are becoming actively involved in protecting corrupt politicians.

  2. As a retired civil servant – technical – I observed that there is a peculiar ethos among administrative grades to exhibit almost an extreme deference to the “system” and a conservative approach in dealing with the public and I concluded it is all done to safeguard one’s promotional prospects. Nothing must be done to place the system in an embarassing position. One’s actions are driven by a need to demonstrate that one is a “safe pair of hands”. This seems to be the primary criterion for advancement. There is little account taken of managerial ability or other competencies. Technical grades are seen as suspect as they deal in “facts” and not “policy”. This was illustrated in the recent revelations about the whistleblower in the Department of Finance whose warnings on the banking system were studiously ignored prior to the issuing of the infamous guarantee. see http://tinyurl.com/bvty6ow

  3. WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY “HER PERSONAL OFFICE POLICY”?. I BROUGHT DUBLIN CO. CO. TO THE LABOUR COURT YEARS AGO FOR THE SAME REASONS [I THOUGHT IT WAS UNFAIR] .I WON THE CASE AND AND THE COUNCIL HAD TO CHANGE THEIR “PERSONAL POLICY”. AS FOR DONEGAL,FORGET IT.

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