Tuesday 27 September 2016

Local councils should adopt 'Nolan Principles' of public service

Published 16/12/2015 | 02:30

Enda Kenny said there was no place in public life for the behaviour seen in a recent ‘RTÉ Investigates’ episode
Enda Kenny said there was no place in public life for the behaviour seen in a recent ‘RTÉ Investigates’ episode

It was in November 1997 that the Oireachtas appointed the Tribunal of Inquiry into Certain Planning Matters and Payments.

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However, it is abundantly clear, following the 'RTÉ Investigates' exposé, that the legacy of this painstaking and very costly 15-year inquiry has neither eliminated corruption from the planning process nor given clarity to the basic ethical standards expected of public office holders.

Public trust continues to be blatantly abused and public confidence in politicians is undermined by the clandestine and egregious actions of some.

Three years before this tribunal was appointed, the son of Kerry Famine emigrants to England, Baron Michael Patrick Nolan QC, a judge of the United Kingdom, became the first Chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, a position he held until 1997.

When Lord Nolan died in 2007, his obituary declared that he had "made a profound mark on public life by cleaning the Augean stable of corrupt politics".

What have become known as 'The Nolan Principles' were published in May 1995 and survive him today. These seven guiding principles encompass:

Selflessness: Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest - not to gain financial or any other advantages for themselves.

Integrity: Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial, or other obligations, to individuals, or organisations, that might seek to inappropriately influence them in their duties.

Objectivity: In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices impartially, fairly and on merit using best evidence and without discrimination or bias.

Accountability: Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to scrutiny necessary to ensure this.

Openness: Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clearly reasons in the wider public interest for doing so and these are lawful.

Honesty: Holders of public office should be truthful.

Leadership: Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour by robustly promoting and supporting them and being willing to challenge poor behaviour whenever this occurs.

Would it be asking too much for each local authority, in the first instance, to demonstrate initiative and leadership by embracing these principles immediately?

Myles Duffy

Glenageary, Co Dublin


Rise of the 'Googleramus'

We know what an "ignoramus" is: someone who is profoundly ignorant, often with the implication of claiming knowledge he or she does not have.

In recent years, this person has acquired a digital-age cousin, who, immersing himself in the great pools of knowledge and half-knowledge and downright nonsense in the unfathomable World Wide Web, emerges still without any real expertise or critical competence, yet arrayed in a formidable semblance of knowledge and ready in his own mind to do intellectual combat with all-comers.

We need, it seems to me, a name for this modern relative of the ignoramus. The "Googleramus" perhaps?

James N O'Sullivan

Killarney, Co Kerry


Time for another flood tribunal

After the deluge, it's surely time for a flood tribunal.

Larry Dunne

Rosslare Harbour, Co Wexford


Water under the bridge

Are past promises from the Government to deal with the flooding situation just water under the bridge?

Leo Gormley

Dundalk, Co Louth


Giving us two fingers

I read recently that as far back as April (no joke) Cadbury announced that it was taking two fingers out of its packet of Chocolate Fingers.

This is that rare occasion, when, personally, I would not have objected to Cadbury giving me 'the two fingers'.

Tom Gilsenan

Beaumont, Dublin 9


Voters beware

Now that the majority of letters to Santa are done and most of the shopping is in the bag, perhaps it's time to consider the next wish list, for the promised General Election in 'early 2016'?

Voters may wish to consider what their priorities are and see how the promises of visiting politicians compare to that wish list. The top three priorities might include:

1. Health. It would be worth asking candidates on the doorstep if they consider the HSE the appropriate body to fix the broken system.

2. Childcare and education. These might be top of many lists, although for some that might not be so as having a permanent home could be a major priority before that, for too many families?

3. The justice system. Perhaps you're not happy with the fact that some popular issues get a speedy priority over more obvious issues that impact voters on an everyday basis?

We have also seen that winning court cases may not always result in a prompt payment of the compensation awarded.

These are three possible voter priorities and that's before we even mention the dreaded water charges, which, by coincidence, are the same annual rate as a TV licence, for a single person.

I suppose the value-conscious parties could add the local property tax to those two taxes and maybe do a 'pay two and get the third free' offer, now that the days of 'spare cash' have returned?!

In fact, the concept of 'spare cash' to spend can be a bit of a worry, especially as the very high level of national debt seems to have been conveniently forgotten recently?

So, once the General Election is announced, it will be all to play for.

But beware of any political party that used to offer All-Ireland tickets, as it might now be offering trips to Euro 2016 in France, with match tickets included!

Caveat voter.

Owen Davin

Rockshire Road, Waterford

Irish Independent

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