Sunday 26 January 2020

Fresh blood for the civil service

Normally the appointment of a new secretary general to the Department of Health would only be of interest to bureaucratic insiders. However, the appointment of Ambrose McLoughlin to the top job of what is, after the Department Social Protection, the biggest-spending government department, is to be welcomed.

Coming just a month after the appointment of John Moran as secretary general of the Department of Finance, Mr McLoughlin's appointment is further evidence that this government is prepared to look beyond the usual pool of talent when appointing top civil servants.

While neither Mr Moran, who formerly headed up the Department of Finance's banking section and had previously been with the Central Bank, nor Mr McLoughlin, currently the chief executive of the pharmaceutical regulator and a former chief executive of the old North-Eastern Health Board, are strictly speaking "outsiders", they don't come from the ranks of the civil service.

This introduction of fresh blood into the upper echelons of the civil service is both welcome and long overdue. For far too long senior civil service appointments were a closed shop. Only career civil servants need apply. The appointments of Messrs McLoughlin and Moran goes some way towards addressing this situation.

When other senior positions come due for appointment, the Government must keep up the good work and ensure that other outside candidates also get a fair crack of the whip.

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