They haven’t gone away, you know…

I see that the party that came up with the policy of moving government departments and offices to their ministers’ constituencies – at the cost of efficiency, corporate memory, careers, effective public service and €238,000 per job – still think it’s a good idea.

Facepalm. And obligatory Einstein quote.

“Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Einstein

Except that’s not quite apt. It’s more accurate to say that a Fianna Fáil politician will do or say absolutely anything to get elected or re-elected, and hang the consequences for the country in the medium to long term.  Which is, of course, just like any other party.

Between this, and the utter stroke politics being attempted by Enda Kenny in the past week, I’ve come up with new guidelines for Irish elections:

1. Don’t vote for any candidate from a party with an Irish-language name.

2. See who is left.

3. Sigh. Select the least worst.

Decentralisation: doing the same thing over and over…

A famous man once said that the definition of insanity was:

“Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Einstein

Obviously, nobody has repeated these sage words to Young Dev.  Somebody let him near a microphone again, and so at the Merriman Summer School, he’s been extolling the virtues of decentralisation.

I used to work in a government department which had a head office and several smaller offices around the country, with a workforce of over 1,000 people.  Around 50 to 60 or so worked in “my” area, and I had excellent promotion prospects.  I now work in an organisation with less than 100 people, total, and my only hope of promotion in this organisation is if my boss dies, or retires.  I believe the Klingons have a word for the former method?  The reason for my move was, of course, decentralisation.  I had no desire to move to a midlands town.  Even if I did have, my family didn’t.  And y’know, my wife has a job in Dublin too…

This notion was first inflicted on the country by then Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds (after advice from the self-congratulatory Terry Leyden), who took ten years to “move” the  General Registrar’s Office from Dublin to Roscommon, where it’s no good to anybody.  (Really.  It’s actually easier for an American tourist to trace their Irish roots by visiting the Mormons in Salt Lake City, Utah, than it is to get access to Ireland’s public birth, marriage and death records. But sure who needs tourist dollars, it’s not like there’s a recession).

The idea was more or less parked for several years.  We had some decentralised offices – generally sections of larger departments.  The Collector General’s office was based in Limerick, and Pensions were in Sligo.  It kind of worked ok, though if you were on the inside looking out, you could see the problems.

Then – Charlie McCreevy. We were going to decentralise, and how!  Forget this piecemeal moving of bits of organisations!  Let’s move whole government departments!  11,000 jobs taken out of Dublin and moved around the country!  Because that made perfect sense…

Only it doesn’t.  The project was, of course, a complete and utter expensive failure. Loss of corporate memory.  Huge inefficiencies.  More expense.  No proper planning.  No planning at all.  Sticking departments where it’d win votes (Marine to a landlocked county?  The Irish Prison Service to somewhere with no prisons?), not where it might make some sense. Ignoring the government’s own spacial strategy.  And so on.

Dev Óg

Proverbs 26:11

Éamon O Cuiv wants to go back to all that.

“Decentralised offices had lower staff turnover, saved money on property expenses and ensured economic growth in areas that would otherwise not attract industry, achieving balanced regional development.”

“Decentralised offices had lower staff turnover”:  Yes, this is true.  This is a bad thing.  They have low staff turnover because if you’ve decentralised to, say, Killarney, there’s nowhere else for you to move to that’s within a reasonable commute.  So you stay put.  Stagnating. Forever.

“…saved money on property”: Yes, this is true.  An office in Sligo is cheaper than the equivalent office space in Dublin.  Assuming everything was procured properly and above board, and not done on a nod and a wink basis.  Which I’m sure never happened anywhere. We won’t mention all the additional costs associated with decentralisation, either, cos that’d be embarrassing.

“…ensured economic growth in areas that would otherwise not attract industry”: Well – if providing 100 or so jobs in a town is the purpose of a government department, then I guess this could be true. Except no.  The purpose of government departments is to help develop and implement government policy, at the behest of our elected politicians, in conjunction with stakeholders and, well – ideally – other government departments!  You know – that “joined-up government” that everyone thinks would be a good idea!

Ok, Éamon, you’re a politician. You were speaking to your audience – mainly people from the country, while in your own back yard.  You know your audience.  But please tell me that’s all it was, a bit of harmless showboating in the middle of silly season.  Rather than a serious FF policy, which will cost us if you ever get back into power.

€238,000. Per job.

Obligatory sinking ship reference

In what appears to be a relatively slow news day, Dev Óg has announced that nothing is happening.  He’s staying in Fianna Fáil, the party founded by his grandfather, and sure it’s the only party for him, and no descendant of Dev would ever contemplate leaving the party anyway, would they?  (Don’t mention Síle’s little spat).

It’s an odd thing about this feudal democratic form of government we have, that this sort of announcement would even make the news.  What it amounts to is that Dev Óg counted his supporters over the weekend, did the maths, and figured out he’d A) stay in and lose out in any  potential leadership challenge; or B) leave, found his own party, and end up as the leader of the third largest opposition party in the Dáil – the fourth largest if you count the technical group.  So he picked option C – do nothing.

Which appears to be exactly what he did at the cabinet table up until last year, from when the financial and economic crisis was first mooted until the day his party gave away our economic sovereignty.  So no change there, then.