Shane Ross

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Civil Servants Should Not Filter Information To Protect Ministers

Posted on: October 26th, 2007

The Aer Lingus affair was debated in the Seanad again yesterday. I argued that what Aer Lingus does is not the business of politicians; it is out in the private sector. However, the Byzantine manoeuvres of civil servants, supposedly to protect their Ministers, does concern us. When the Seanad debated the issue in the past two weeks, we were doing it in the dark because we had incomplete information.

If civil servants are filtering sensitive information to Ministers to protect us, that is seriously disturbing. Equally disturbing is the DAA’s failure to keep its principal shareholder informed of its plans. This is what I told the Seanad:

It is very serious if civil servants are deciding of their own accord to filter information to their Ministers because it might be politically embarrassing for them to find out about something or it might impinge on the empires which civil servants administer.

Even worse is the attitude of the DAA, and that is a matter for this House. The DAA took the unilateral decision to tell Aer Lingus something confidentially. The DAA for all its faults, and God knows it has plenty, is answerable to the Government because the Government is the shareholder. The DAA apparently decided not to give anybody but Aer Lingus information that is political dynamite but which also has an enormous effect on the Shannon region.

This issue should be taken on board by the Leader of the House. We are being rendered, to some extent, political eunuchs. Not only is power leaving this House, but information is not being given to it. There is no point debating this issue if civil servants are deliberately hiding information from their Ministers and are not held accountable for it.

It is most important, not that the Minister visit the House, but that the committee on transport addresses this issue immediately. It is equally important that necessary information is not withheld from the House when we are debating issues of this nature.