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Ruck inspectors

• There is a wonderful expression from the sport of rugby that captures the nature of our senior public-service management: 'ruck inspectors'.

For the uninitiated, the said 'ruck inspector' is someone who stands upright behind the grafters in the mire of combat, watching and advising. The ruck inspector either can't or won't stoop his back.

The recent 'revelation' that the performance management system in the civil service -- agreed in 'partnership' -- just isn't working, is evidence, if evidence were needed, that partnership is more like collusion between unions and government.

The revelation this week that the Institute of Directors found that many semi-state appointees weren't even qualified evokes notions of the essential nature of proverbial 'bears and popes' etc. So where do we go from here?

I have a bold suggestion for reforming our public service. We need to inculcate a culture of ethical and moral behaviour. Okay, now that readers have wiped their eyes from laughing uncontrollably at the previous sentence, let me elaborate.

People in the public service are, in my experience, extraordinarily deferential and malleable; as likely to behave well as badly.

Historically, at too many levels, anyone given a degree of power established their own mini version of the successive government example of administrative ethics they experienced.

Bertie Ahern and union bosses got to place mates on boards, so civil service managers got to appoint whomsoever they wanted around them.

Some government ministers advanced a policy of 'Why tell the truth when a good lie will do?' and, as night follows day, monkey did what monkey saw.

As unjust as the bank guarantee and the EU bullying of this State are, we cannot escape the reality that our public administration remains in need of fundamental reform.

The appalling reality -- that this Government is being allowed to interpret 'reform' as accountancy -- is a travesty.

Only by dismissing rafts of failed and incapable 'ruck inspectors', whose backs are fused into the upright position, will a reform process begin.

Declan Doyle
Lisdowney, Kilkenny

Irish Independent