Monday 18 December 2017

How's about a Minister for Thinking Big, Taoiseach?

Brian Cowen has an opportunity to rethink how government policy is made and effected, says John-Paul McCarthy

As the Taoiseach ponders the architecture of his Government this week, he might try to find a spare moment to read the Devlin report, the first major assessment of Irish administrative structures since independence, which was published in 1969 by the Public Service Organisation Review Group.

Though this important document was written in the Lemass era, its analysis of the nuts and bolts of the Irish government machine remains impressive and stimulating.

Devlin essentially concluded that cabinet ministers were too distracted by the day-to- day toil of running big departments to think strategically. He argued that the job of a cabinet minister, so coveted and powerful, was in danger of becoming little more than a desk job unless policy formulation was radically separated from policy implementation.

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