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16 November 2006 Edition

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The Mary Nelis Column

The uncivil servants

The Secretary of State Peter Hain and the head of the Civil Service Nigel Hamilton were before the Courts last week to hear a Judge accuse them of improper political purpose. The Secretary of State was accused of trying to hide the truth about the controversial appointment as victims commissioner, of the widow of an RUC man, Bertha Mc Dougall, at a salary of some  £50, 000.

Nigel Hamilton, not short of a few bob himself, (he earns some £130,000) told the Court that Peter Hain was 'mindful' that Mrs. McDougall's name had been put forward by the DUP, who were the only political party consulted on the secret appointment.

The rights of Brenda Downes and the hundreds of nationalist victims murdered and maimed by members of the British Army and the RUC is clearly not a factor in what appears as a cosy relationship between the DUP and Senior Civil Servants at the NIO.

The arrogance of such people is breathtaking.  Senior Civil Servants for years have been bending the rules and distorting the facts in the knowledge that they always got away with it. Millions of pounds of taxpayers money has been spent on winning and dining, consultancy fees, travels abroad and advertisements. This is only part of the expenditure by this old boy network to come to the attention of the public. Last year, Civil Servants spent £10,000 per day alone, on air travel.

Eight years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and 35 years after people marched for civil rights, Senior Civil Servants in the Northern Ireland Office have not moved beyond the modus operandi of the old unionist regime

The former member of the Equality Commission, Inez McCormack, claimed that during the months after the signing of the Agreement, while a solicitor was drawing up the Section 75 Equality legislation, Senior Civil servants held 39 meetings to discuss ways to weaken the legislation and render it meaningless.

In July this year, the President of a powerful Irish American lobby group stated that Irish America had lost confidence in Peter Hain's ability to manage the peace process as he is 'clearly a team player for the DUP'. Dr. Bob Linnon accused Hain of making decisions' unashamedly designed to bolster unionism and disadvantage nationalism.

This is borne out by the appointment of 90% of the NIO staff to predominantly unionist areas. Out of a total of 1,828 civil servants, only three are located in Gerry Adams's West Belfast constituency and seven in the Foyle area of Derry. Both constituencies have the worst level of deprivation in the North.

Judgment in the judicial review taken by the young widow of a man killed by a plastic bullet fired by the RUC, has indicted both Peter Hain and Nigel Hamilton.

The Judge has called for a high level inquiry into the handling of the appointment by Hain. The uncivil servants at the NIO should be suspended in the interim.


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